Passion, death or somewhere in between

James Rhodes, Concert Pianist, writing in The Guardian (via Stephen Pressfield Online):

I imagine authors have lost count of the number of people who have told them they “always had a book inside them”. We seem to have evolved into a society of mourned and misplaced creativity.

We all know or perhaps even live, similar stories. “If I only had more time, I could have really made a go of writing that book, setting up that online store or actually building that boat”. If we are entirely honest with ourselves, is it ever – no, think about it and be honest, really ever about the time? Or simply a question of priority and choices. I highly recommend reading the full article by Rhodes, for he makes some compelling points, of which many relate to the fact that really no one else is to blame for these aspirations remaining not simply undone, but never attempted.

The approach taken by Rhodes? One of extremes (though I imagine becoming a concert pianist takes extreme commitment), hence the title of the article Find What You Love and Let it Kill You:

… no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35lbs in weight.

An extreme case no doubt, and not an approach I would necessarily recommend, however it met with success.

For most of us, the answer more closely resembles something slightly different, perhaps in line with the following from David Ferguson, writing in The Onion :

Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.

and further:

Because when you get right down to it, everyone has dreams, and you deserve the chance—hell, you owe it to yourself—to pursue those dreams when you only have enough energy to change out of your work clothes and make yourself a half-assed dinner before passing out

Despite much of Ferguson’s article being written with tongue firmly in cheek, it is a reality many of us are confronted with. Am I kidding myself if I think the few interests outside my day job will ever amount to anything more than ‘things’ I choose to spend my spare time doing – probably yes. I accept they will not support my family, nor will they afford me an early retirement. Do I expect them to? Not for a second. Will I continue to get up early, stay up late and squeeze them in on weekends? For sure.

Furthermore, were I to pursue these interests with the sole purpose of turning them into my ‘job’ – what would they become? Well, hard work of course. Do I want that? Actually I don’t. I’d then spend all my time working on what were immensely enjoyable activities outside of work, and then – write about my, well…work.

Whilst I understand the merits, I have never truly subscribed to the “find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life” theory. Mine? Thus:

One keeps me sane, the other gives me shelter from the rain

Your choice, though don’t tell me, or more to the point, don’t tell yourself, you don’t have time. It’s decidedly simple, if you really want to do it, you’ll find the time. Actually you won’t find the time. Prioritise and you will create the time. Think you have no time to finish anything like this? I guarantee you have the time to start. Once you start – you have the time to do a little more, and then another little bit, and a bit more again, even after you’ve done nothing on it for a month.

If it takes a little more effort, and perhaps a little less sleep, it won’t really kill you will it. And that’s the point. You don’t need to find what you love and let it kill you. You know what you love. You simply need to find the will to start, and then just…keep…going.

Is it then worth finishing?

That is for you to answer, however as Ferguson so eloquently concludes:

… even if it doesn’t work out, don’t you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror and confidently say, “You know what, I gave it my best half-hearted shot”?

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