In it to win it

I think sometimes we ask why we do what we do and if it’s a worthwhile endeavor when reflecting on our choices. Many evenings the past few years I’ve considered the same two options: I could spend time writing or I could lay on the couch and watch TV. One feels easier than the other…but is it because there’s less risk? There’s undoubtedly less potential reward to merely consume instead of create. 

Writing fills me up as I pour out the words and thoughts. Yet at the same time, it depletes me. It takes my time and energy, but with it also some of my hopes and dreams. Aspirations of connecting with a wider audience or building toward a bigger project. When said like that, it’s hard not to say, Where’s audience? Where’s the awards? Where’s the blog sponsorship or book deal?

Simply put, they aren’t there in spades. Will they all someday show up out of thin air? Probably not. Will they ever come after years of effort? I don’t know. Is it still worth it regardless of the possible accolades?

It’s nice to know what we’re working towards. Goals give us direction, purpose, and motivation. But even if I want a larger audience or awards or a monetary deal to transpire, can it still be good without those? You know, as is.

Married to a musician, we’re constantly asking ourselves if the amount of time, money, energy, and even physical space that is devoted to music is justified. Likewise, I second guess myself when it comes to writing here on my blog or for a random publication or on yet another word doc to metaphorically collect dust while stored in the depths of my hard drive. Sure, it’s great to pursue your passions, but we have a family and friends and jobs and responsibilities that need tending to. At what point do we sacrifice what we love for those things (and which is which)? Conversely, when is it worth continuing to press forward despite the sacrifices required…even without a payoff guaranteed on the other side?

For instance, is it enough to just compete in the Olympics if there’s no way you could even come close to the podium? Should you be in it to win it? I can’t help but think about Olympic halfpipe skier Elizabeth Swaney. If you didn’t see her run in PyeongChang, it was entirely lackluster and she received the lowest score by a landslide. People have a lot of opinions, and it’s hard to even say if what she did was admirable or embarrassing. On the one hand, she technically made it to the Olympics but on the other hand, some may say she didn’t belong there at all. Was it an accomplishment or was it a completely foolish waste of time?

Then again, isn’t it still an enjoyable hike and experience up a mountain even if you don’t reach the summit? As a rather unaccomplished hiker and climber, I feel confident in saying, Yes, yes it is worth it. But I only go on a few hikes a year (if that), and rock climb each week to squeeze in a little healthy exercise. I never aspire for more than that. Therefore my level of effort and ongoing mental consideration toward hiking/climbing is likewise reflected. Is that the difference? Having completely grounded and realistic expectations of my progress and no wild dreams or creative passion tied into it?

Somehow writing is different. Music is different. Although I’ll never be a painter or sculptor, I assume that’s different too. It’s more personal and protected in a way. Hence the continued questions and thought toward the value and worth behind my thought and energy devoted toward creativity. But then are those questions themselves worthwhile or are they merely excuses to hide behind? Honestly, it’s easier to just turn on the TV at the end of a long day. Rather than deeply consider the potential to create something of significance or obscurity, I watch someone else’s stories unfold on a screen and feel a mix of rested and restless.

Eventually, something seeps out, because you can’t hold back creativity forever. There we circle…back and forth, the cycle of self-doubt and fleeting satisfaction.

The question remains, is it worth it?

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  • heyscooch

    Introspective article, Samantha. Your blog post reminds me of a book that asks some of the same questions. It’s called Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God by Amena Brown. You can read quite a few pages from it on Amazon if you want to.