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By The Light of Day

January 6, 2012

Good Morning, Macketeers.

I see you brought your spambots today. Very good. Can’t have spambot races without the spambots, or so I’m told. I hereby declare this, the first annual Spambolympics, to be open.

Okay, enough of that silliness. What I really want to talk about is love. Not romantic love, or even the love of friends and family. I want to talk about the kind of love you feel when you find yourself doing something that feels right to you, like it’s something you should be doing all of the time. This happens for people who play sports and games, or who watch specialized television shows, people who act, people who draw or sculpt or paint, people who make music, and it happens for people who write. It also happens for people who are just inordinately happy with performing their actual jobs well, and that’s an important factor in how well and how long people work in one career. It’s also an important ingredient for those of those performers, players and creatives persuasion who decide to ‘Go Pro’.

From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s exceedingly rare to find someone who draws huge amounts of pleasure from doing unrewarding work in a profession they don’t respect for employers they loathe or customers they despise. But loving your work and the feeling of a sense of accomplishment at having done something extraordinary are the cornerstones of physical endeavour. Very little in this life rewards us as fully as knowing we’re good at what we do, and few of us ever give ourselves permission to succeed in the areas of endeavour we are best suited to.

We’re raised, at least on this continent (North America) to accept that the best route is always the safest, and we actively discourage all but—and sometimes even those—the most gifted of Creatives from following a creative career path. We think to do our fellow traveller a favour, and perhaps in many cases it is a blessing in disguise, persuading a lesser talent to give up on dreams and lotus petals to take a day job and get a family to support instead. We believe that to be cruel is the greatest kindness we can bestow when we save the Dreamer from herself.

This is our culture, and it’s as prevalent as breathing air. We all love and appreciate beautiful things, but we have such a limited understanding of what passes for beauty that very often, we inhibit those who need the most encouragement, whose visions and voices are perhaps the most unique, and may one day be the most needed. We know this because occasionally these visionaries slip through to do amazing things, perhaps because they were also gifted with amazing charisma and could win people over to let them do their work. But in most cases, that lack of star quality drags the Creative into an ugly world of feeling they don’t have the right to create, that they somehow must pay their dues, often without any hope of remuneration, for the faintest of hopes of being accepted into the near-invisible world where Creatives get to live productive, happy lives,

To surmount all of that negativity and obstruction, the only thing that can keep you on the path is love. You have to absolutely love what you do. Not just the profession itself, but your contributions to it. Sadly, in this highly cynical world which will accept nothing on its own merits unless it can be commoditized effectively or can pass inspection as a critically-exceptional piece of fine creative work (a pursuit often hampered by capriciousness and fashionable notions of dubious lasting artistic merit), then and only then can the Creative hold her head high and proclaim herself. Rarely will you actually feel this level of acceptance. Awards and accolades from your peers might help, but they might not, either. There is a thing called Impostor Syndrome, where you continuously believe your work and yourself to be a fraud, and that you would be better off taking that advice your uncle gave you years ago about getting into a trade union, where the real money is.

Only love can carry you over all of this. Only love can hold you together while you wrestle with your own fears of inadequacy, of fraudulence.

One other thing I know is, it’s hard to love what you do if you don’t to it for yourself. If everything you do is calculated toward making revenue, you’ll probably never stick with anything long enough to see it through, because your only basis for value will be whether it sells or not. And that, my little Mackronauts, is an ugly place to find yourself.

I don’t have any real answers here. It’s an knotted social question that can’t be severed with the usual swords or scythes. All I’m saying is, be careful when you offer advice to some young hopeful, because you may not appreciate how much damage you could be doing to a gifted and potentially world-changing creative person. Most art thrives in adversity, but too much well-intended opposition can lead to stunted creativity, stunted results, and stunted, shortened lives lived in misery and despair. An active mind is a terrible thing to herd into comfortable conformity. Consider before you speak. Remember, they may not be Rembrandt, but then, they may just be Van Gogh, or Pollock.

Or you.

All of this goes to say, don’t forget that the best love comes from within. Let it thrive, and watch the world change.


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