These days it seems as though a lot of my writing ideas come from conversations with others that cause me to think about things I might not have thought about before. Or maybe to view it in a different way than I have in the past. Not an amazing concept, I realize, since people seeing things from a different perspective is sort of how life works.
A particular conversation I had in the past week was with a guitar playing friend of mine. He had always been a guitarist, and we met when he was in school and was studying guitar. In recent years, he had relocated to a part of the country that bred more songwriters and he was expanding into the full art of songwriting. Basically, uncharted territory for himself.
Why do that? Why branch out from what you have done for your whole life? Well, simple: because doing the work well is worth it. The finished product is a nice result, but perhaps too much focus is placed on it. Michelangelo had a fine résumé built for himself before he was commissioned for the Sistine Chapel. The grand masterpiece doesn’t happen overnight, and without his early work, he doesn’t get the recognition, and therefore Sistine goes elsewhere.
I guess the conversation came at a good time more than anything else. My mind had long been worried about the product. Was I doing enough? Is what I’m doing the right thing? Or worse yet, is what I’m doing significant?
The world asks these questions a lot. An athlete is never judged by how he performs, but what he earns. Championships mean more than anything else, and a player could accomplish more than others, but if they don’t have the titles, it doesn’t matter. Musicians have to make the chart topping album, and if it wasn’t exactly what people wanted to hear or exactly what they’ve made in the past, it sucks. It’s not different. The athlete isn’t a different player. No, it’s ranked lower.
Simply put, we’re obsessed with rankings, and we’re obsessed with something being better than something else.
Naturally, this makes it difficult to accomplish anything. After all, if the result isn’t the best thing we’ve seen or heard, it is judged harshly. Our unhealthy focus on the product makes us constantly question whether our lives have meaning because if we’re not going viral we’re falling behind. It’s a mess.
Maybe it’s the same reason we worship celebrities, aim to be celebrities, and celebrate when those celebrities fall. We dream of being significant, hate when others are significant instead of us, and obsess over all of it.
But the process; oh the glorious process. Doing work well is worth it, because it’s the process that matters. Writing is hard and painful and there is a lot of bad writing out there. I have produced a lot of bad writing over the past four years. But looking back, I don’t wonder if any of it was significant or not. I’m starting to learn that doing the work well is worth it, and that alone is worth celebrating. Not the finished product, although I hope I end up writing something significant. But I’m learning again to enjoy the process. I’m learning to write again, and learning to enjoy it again.
Our perspective is so funny. We are obsessed with a glimmering object that shines for fifteen minutes and then is gone. And we move on. We claim that these things are significant, then they aren’t even significant enough to stay around long. All the while, we ignore the work that goes into things. We ignore what we deem to be “mundane”, which then tells people that they are insignificant. Nonsense.
What you do is significant, no matter the attention it gets. Do the work well, no matter how much it glimmers. It’s worth it. You’ll find that to be true when your perspective shifts.