A conversation I had with a friend this week, has inspired me to think about how I look at my own goals and priorities. Particularly in light of it being the first day of a new year and the fresh start that both inspires and overwhelms a lot of us when we find ourselves back in January thinking about what we want for the year ahead, I thought I'd share a few thoughts with you around said conversation and those which followed in my own head thereafter, and which have since spurred me to write on this week's topic.
"What do you want to do this year?" was the question my friend asked, on a walk with some mates after a party the night before. It's amazing how deep conversations can get after a sleepover away from the city. "I want progress in my art" was my direct response. It was pretty silly when I think back to it. Of all the things I could possibly want in an entire year. But my honesty actually worked in my favour this time round. I got talking about how I'd felt like I was standing still creatively, and wanted to get motivated to have more exhibitions this year, play more shows, finish unfinished projects, but instead of a motivational seminar or offering me suggestions about how I might get my lazy butt into gear come 2017, I got a chuckle from said friend, who laughed at my need to 'progress' in life, and he told me that as an artist not to mention a human being, we were all progressing regardless of whether we were making any work to show for it. Everyone's progressing as long as they're alive and getting older. Your life is not in a vacuum, even if you have to sit around your house and refuse all visitors for a year, chances are you will continue to change.
He got me thinking a lot about what it means to move forward in the big picture, and the whole conversation encouraged me not to think of the looming year ahead as a way to cram as much as possible into the next twelve months of my non-stagnant life, but to hold just as much regard for the still times or for the times I chose not to work, as they too were part of my life's progression.
A really good friend of mine once told me that life is not linear, but more like a spiral which centres on its own axis. That when we feel like we've gone back over an old lesson or a point in our lives we recognize, we're might feel really close to a place we've been to before, even though in reality that experience seems far behind us.
If you've kept up with my posts so far you'll be aware of my journey as a workaholic artist, and you'll know why it's a constant push and pull for me these days to work and relax. Because of my recent history as someone whose working habits literally made myself sick, progression for me in many ways looks like producing less and slowing down. Two of the hardest things I've had to do in order to recover my self-respect and value myself as a human being. In light of my last three years of slowing my rate of creative production, I often wrestle with the idea that I am regressing because I have stopped getting up at zero o-clock to run in the morning, and I no longer feel the need to splash my personal life all over social media. But the main difference I notice between my life now and my life three years ago, is my level of happiness, something measured only by my level of stress or lack thereof.
I feel less need to justify my place in the world by what I've done or resolved to do now than when I first started working and less need to prove myself to others because I'm more familiar with myself and who I want to be. I'm also less motivated these days to create work out of fear than out of a genuine desire to express my creativity, which means the work I make now feels less like slaving over a hot stove and more like cooking exactly what I want and making everyone else do the dishes.
Some might argue that because I'm producing less, I'm actually regressing in my artistry, but for me I know I can't make the kind of work I want to produce, or put on the sort of shows I want to put on unless I have nothing time. If we're talking business you might call it 'putting back into the company' or taking a sabbatical. Better still, in the words of one of my creative champions Julia Cameron who calls it 'filling the well'.
So with that in mind I implore you to work out what you want. I'll even do it too. Then start making steps to progress in that direction in whatever ways make sense to you. But try to remember your movement. Your continual progression whether you fight it or not and let it give you the momentum you need to progress in the direction you want, regardless of what sounds good to other people. I'd love to hear what you have to say on this subject. All the best with your continual movement and the coming year.