making peace with your motivations
Maybe it’s just me, but it’s taken me this long (at 30 years of age) to finally realise that sometimes the hardest thing to understand is what’s inside you. I remember reading The Alchemist where the boy has an actual conversation with his heart, and I sort of glossed over it at the time as being an obvious thing to do, just written about in a metaphorical sense. But since then it’s itched the inside of my brain, because I’m not sure it’s something I’m able to do in any sense.
If you ask yourself a question, you might not tell yourself the truth. You might wonder why on earth that would happen, but it’s almost like our selves are made up of a whole community of little personalities, and each one has its own agenda. I’m not talking about multiple personality disorder here, it’s basic stuff that seems to run through the course of the history of psychology. I think I’ve mentioned it before but the book The Happiness Hypothesis mentions lots of different schools of thought on psychology all having an element of how the self is split into two or more parts, each one having different motivations – sometimes conflicting with each other. So when you ask yourself a question, which part do you listen to? The sensible bit that has learned the rules of society? The carnal, self preserving bit that acts on pure survival-of-the-fittest instinct? Is there any way to even realise which bit has the strongest voice in answering? That’s not even taking into account how we save up all the criticism we’ve had over the years and build it into one ‘voice’ that makes itself heard when you”’re feeling a little wobbly and sends you into a spiral of self loathing. Ok, I got a bit drama queen there, but I think we’ve all done it.
This does have a link to photography, I promise.
It’s one thing to say that art is subjective, and there is no easy way of measuring ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That’s why when people enter photos into camera club competitions, they get judged on sharpness, composition, vivid colour or range of tones, and ‘impact’. Those are tangible things you can, to a certain extent, quantify and compare. This is stuff I’ve said before. But what happens when you take the first thing I was talking about, and think about it in conjunction with this telling the truth stuff? To be more specific, I suppose I’ll give the example:
“Why am I doing this? Do I want recognition for being good at it, or am I happy just pottering along, pleasing myself?”
The obvious answer is that there’s no need to please anyone but yourself. But that’s the sensible answer, the one we are taught by society to believe is right. Some people are happy to admit they are in it for the money, some relish the competition of the marketplace and use sales to measure success. But what happens when you”’re conflicted, and your heart won’t answer that question? When you’ve told yourself long enough that the opinion of nobody but you matters, that it’s all about taste so what someone else thinks is irrelevant, but you still have a horrible, guilty, sneaking urge to put yourself out there on the offchance, the vague hope that you’ll be regarded (by some at least) as talented and good, but you hate yourself for wanting to do that? I also realise that marketable!=good, so success in that area may still end up leaving me feeling empty if that’s actually what I’m after.
I think it would make things a whole lot easier if we could suss out just what it is we’re really looking to get out of any given situation like that, and make our peace with it. I’ve been having the urge to try and break into the gallery scene, and it’s bothering me that I don’t know why I want to have my stuff on a gallery wall – or rather, it’s worrying me that I may be doing it for the sake of a bit of chin tickling. I need to know that if that is why, I’m comfortable with it – but also that I’m prepared for it not to happen. Telling yourself you don’t care about something then being slapped in the face when it fails is not a nice feeling, doubly so. If you”’re clear about your motivation from the start, you can be more ready to deal with the possible outcomes and how they might make you feel – and more importantly – how to get over it and keep going to try and reach that goal. At the moment all I can do is look for other possible motivations, and try them all on to see which feels genuine – that’s the closest I can get to a conversation with my heart.