Sometimes, in between eating pizza and naps on the couch, I think of stuff.
One of the things I have increasingly pondered, is the concept of "settling", You know, making the "responsible" decisions in life in lieu of the shallow things like happiness and self actualization.
I have made many responsible "settling" decisions in my life. From taking any job I could find to survive, to not having children for lack of time and resources, and going to college and graduate school based on the hope that I would make a better living. Over time (sadly, too long of a time), I realized increasingly that I regretted making the responsible decisions. When I didn't take risks, I ultimately wound up not getting anywhere for it. The trade offs I imagined (better employment, stowing away money for retirement or to have kids) never came to fruition. The sacrifices were for naught.
So about 5 years ago, my wife and I took a huge risk. We gave up our house, our jobs, our retirement (no big loss, we could never save enough for it anyway), and moved out to the west coast with no jobs and only a dream. Very idealistic. Some would say very stupid. The opposite of settling.
The result? I felt alive for the first time in decades, and I landed a job at a great place with great people. It wasn't exactly the job I wanted, but my environment (literally and figuratively) increased 10 fold. This was a confirmation to the huge wake up call I had.
Fast forward a few years, and I felt myself getting comfortable. This started to bother me, as deep down (though not as deep as it would have been a few years before) I knew that ultimately, this was a bad thing for me. When I feel comfortable, my growth as a human being usually slows or stops. Sometimes, I even start to slide backwards.
So now I am moving on, adding voice acting to my repertoire of strange and esoteric skill set like illustration, bad ukulele playing, medieval history and of course, lame rhyming and puns. I understand I have years and years of learning to attain some semblance of mastery in this new skill. I must come to terms that I will continue to struggle, to crawl forward in my creative development.
And that is as it should be.
We should always keep striving, to keep pushing ourselves forward, and dragging ourselves (sometimes kicking and screaming) to our next big goal. We do this so we can feel the elation of true accomplishment - that extraordinary high where you have stretched beyond what you thought your limits were. You go beyond what you thought possible, and suddenly you hit that magical moment where every pitch is coming at you at once and you just keep hitting them out of the park.
Of course, this elation though is relatively short lived unless one keeps upping the ante, and taking new risks. Despite my fears, I know I feel my best when I know much of what I am doing, but not quite. I need to know that I can fail, that I don't know everything. I bore easily otherwise. This is where the intellectual and creative apathy usually sets in.
I understand. sometimes stretching beyond is hard. Many times our fears and circumstances can prevent us from going full tilt towards our artistic destinies. Time, money and relationships can sap so much from us if we are not careful and guard our time and energy well. We can feel trapped by our responsibilities. And being trapped is one of the worst things that can happen to us, and the brilliant muses dwelling within our souls.
I can say this though. Almost all of us can change the direction of our lives. Maybe not overnight, and maybe only in small increments over time, but it can be done.
Don't have a good computer to work on? Sketch on paper, notebook paper if you have to. Can't afford a great microphone? Get a crappy one. Don't have time to work on your voiceover? Do what you can, when you can. Do it for an hour a day. More on your days off. I you are like me, you need this to feel like a human being.
The key to this is you have to want change. You have want it so much and powerfully that the work is only a secondary thought, a side cart journey as you push onward. You need to look forward to the time in your creative grove. You need to be in love every aspect of it - the art, the marketing, the people you engage and work with.
You have to feel the fire inside you burning like a nuclear furnace as you create. If you don't cackle with unhinged glee to yourself incessantly on your next creative plan you intend to unleash upon the unsuspecting world, you are doing it wrong. You need to be as optimistic as a mad scientist or super-villain - even if that plan doesn't go as planned, you need to pull yourself up and just know the next plan will work. Not like the one before that, or before that this time it will work! ;-)
I sincerely believe to be in the creative arena, one has to have a combination of confidence, vulnerability, and ingenuity reinforced with the ability to selectively forget past mishaps. Come to think of it actually, that also applies to life in general.
You need to believe in your work so much that the effect spreads from your imaginings to your art, with such force of personality that it affects and touches the personality of others as well. This could take a long time, true. But it shouldn't be just about time. When you ask yourself, "How long until my art is recognized? The answer is always "as long as it it needs to"
You may not be able to change the direction of your creative life all at once, but you can steer it incrementally in a new direction if you work hard and long enough.
Be bold. Be Brave. Trust in your ingenuity. Don't give in or up and never settle for half-measures.