The Curse of the Creative Mind
Dealing with the endless noise inside my brain
Some nights, I sit alone at my desk with a million different thoughts running through my head. They’re not the usual how am I going to pay rent kind of thoughts. They’re more like a million hopes and dreams that I could potentially become — all the things that I can create, make, do, think, write, sell, source and everything and anything in between.
Then the doubt creeps in. They come as voices. Sometimes they come in the form of the people around us. Often, what they’ll tell me is that you can’t.
The voices and noises come in waves of whispers and words.
You can’t be a filmmaker because you didn’t go to film school, or have that $10,000 camera. You can’t be a writer because you haven’t got anything good to write or that you can’t because you haven’t got time.
They tell me that you can’t make games because you haven’t got a computer science degree. They say, you can’t draw and you can’t because you haven’t got the right tools.
They say you can’t because you are useless.
And they’re almost right.
You can’t be everything all at once but you can be whatever you choose to be.
The issue with too many dreams
Over the past few years, I’ve been jumping around life with different ideas and projects. Most of the time, they get the initial enthusiastic start but fizzle out within a month or two. It doesn’t take me long to jump onto the next and newest idea.
Nothing sticks around long enough to flourish. I plant the seeds but don’t do the necessary things to help them germinate and grow. I move on and believe the voices that tell me that I can’t.
The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.
— Randy Pausche, The Last Lecture
The fire that fuels a dream
The type of fire that fuels a dream matters. If you’re just doing it for the fame and money, then it’s not a sustainable fire. It’s a fake and hollow kind of dream. What you’re looking at is a by-product of a dream come true — not the actual dream itself.
When I was working at a call center, my supervisor asked me what was my dream. His was to become a chef and open his own restaurant one day. I just wanted to be rich. His dream was much more concrete. 5 years later, last I heard he was working as a fine dining chef for a luxury hotel in Australia.
I, on the other hand, have nothing as concrete on the progress bar as him. I once had a dream to become a web developer — something I achieved very quickly about a year into my career — but I had nothing after that. Promotions and long hours of work with no balance took me to a place that made me like everyone else. I accepted my fate until fate decided that I was capable of doing and being more. Fate came in the form of the finance manager and HR telling me that the company has decided to shut its doors.
The benefit of defining your dreams
After losing my job, I entered a state of confusion and panic. I came up with ideas, quickly pushed them out and then jumped onto the next. Nothing was sustainable.
About a week ago, an old University friend posted pages of her sketchbook on Facebook. 5 years ago, her drawing skills were nonexistent but she kept working on it over the years. Now I look at it with envy. That could have been me if I kept drawing with her. But I didn’t. I gave it up and decided to do a million and one other things instead.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what skills I want to grow and develop. I looked at my own current toolbox and decided that despite being a developer for 5 years, the past few years were spent on office politics and dealing with micromanaged tasks. My original dream was to be a web developer. My new dream is to be a successful and effective web developer — and to be that, I need to master my craft.
The curse of avoiding mastery
Mastery has always been my issue. My former supervisor’s mastery came in the form of perfecting his food. My friend’s mastery came in the form of the control of her pen. My mastery — well, I’ve got none — just bits of knowledge loosely strung together. It could create something but not at the level and finesse I want it to be.
Over the years, I’ve gotten sidetracked by my quest to become rich and move up the ranks at work. I wanted to be part of the elite without actually doing the necessary groundwork. What I didn’t realize until now is that these things are the rewards of mastering my dream.
I tried to cheat the system and the system slapped me back in the face for it.
People who become ‘elite’ at what they do aren’t striving to be ‘elite’ just to join some special club. They take great joy and satisfaction in the pursuit of mastery, and they compete against themselves, not othersJustine Musk
Mindfully single tasking my dreams
I still want to make films, to draw, to dance, sing, create, make, sew, grow and do a million other things. I believe that I am capable. However, I will never reach the level of proficiency that I want if I keep bunny hopping through my dreams.
The issue is not that I can’t do the things I want to do but rather, I can’t get to the level I want to be at if I try and do everything at once. When I’m working on more than half a dozen dreams, I’m purposefully slowing down my progress towards mastery.
When progress is slow, we tend to give up.
Since November, I’ve stopped trying to make money. I’ve stopped trying to just survive. I’ve stopped and halted everything that I was doing and began focusing my dream. Only then, can maybe one day I’ll be able to wake up and finally see that I’m living the dream.