I didn’t think, I didn’t have to
If your life is a body of work, what would be the next piece to add to the collection?
What do you create and put out into the world? Is it your work? Your art? The way you counsel friends or manage a team?
If you think about your output as a body of work, what would be the next piece to add to the collection?
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I’m asking you this because even though there are absolute legends in this world who can do one thing well and for a sustained amount of time, I’ve realised that I am not one of them (although I envy you, the Steph Curry(s) of our time!)
For those of us who have a myriad of passions, it might be that we need to sequence our disparate interests instead of doing too many at once. I’ve been a writer, photographer, artist and designer, but I’ve done these for expanses of time instead of multi-gigging. People who do multiple gigs at once are more unhappy than their full-time peers. I know that when I was working three days a week as a designer and studying fine art at the same time, it was hard to reconcile my time and mind. Of course, there are privileges in the statements I make.
Perhaps we let our past, or our planned future dictate too much of what we do in the present. If I’m completely in the present moment and not worried about the future plans, I wouldn’t even care about making my resume seem cohesive.
Somewhat tangentially, I accidentally deleted a whole art project on my server, there’s no undo, no back up. It felt freeing.
What would you work on, when you’re in the here and now, forgetting your past, not fretting about the future? What would you do if you dipped into your work, like plunging effortlessly into a lake?
Maya Angelou broke many invisible rules. She was the first African-American female conductor on San Francisco’s cable car. Whilst writing poetry, she bluffed her way into an editor position for an Arab magazine and learnt on the job. When she turned 41, an editor at Random House asked her to pen her life story, but she declined the offer, told him to come back when she’s older.
Then, when she was wrapping up a big TV production, she got a call.
On my last day, Robert Loomis [editor at Random House] called again. I have always been sure that he spoke to James Baldwin. He said, “Miss Angelou, Robert Loomis. I won’t bother you again. And I must say, you might be right not to attempt an autobiography, because it is nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature. Almost impossible.”
I didn’t think. I didn’t have to.
I said, “Well, maybe I will try it. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I can try.”…I’ll start tomorrow”
There is something beautifully instinctual and full of life in that moment. Not over-thinking things too much, picking up a challenge and plunging into the work so effortlessly.
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