‘And I took you by the hand
And we stood tall,
And remembered our own land,
What we lived for’
-Mumford & Sons
This post is perhaps more for me, than it is for you.
Please think of the following body of text as large, public note to self that may or may not be of some help to you in some area of your life.
First, I’ll start with a confession. Maybe it’s more of a realization than confession.
Whatever it is, here is what I have to say…
Up until a month ago, the notion that one must suffer through making one’s work was unconsciously lodged in my mind, my process and my habit. Then suddenly it stuck it’s ugly, stupid, self deprecating head out of the ground and looked me straight in the face.
The structure of this idea, the belief that suffering makes good things was gathered like tiny, small kindling for a large fire. Except it wasn’t a fire that was created, but rather a pile full of dried, decaying, sad sticks. Sticks, that instead of being used to create a bright, fiery thing, decided that being a heap of grey detritus was better.
When I was little, art/work was not an obligation, but a wonderous gift.
Does that sounds familiar?
Sunday brunch was basically a catered drawing lesson with delicious, warm french toast. Like all of us as kids, I just made things. Most all of it was hobnob, glued together and random. But it existed in joy and experimentation and discover. It didn’t make me want to go crawl into a hole and never leave.
I have really no idea of the exact time or place this notion of suffering sprouted up. But I can tell you a few of the various turns I took and which seeds were planted that perhaps led me to this theory of suffering.
Here’s what I’ve gathered thus far:
It’s basically engraved in the lens of society’s view that almost all artists are hungry and the best are starving. Literally and figuratively. Austin Kleon and Liz Gilbert refer to this many times and warn with huge, red signs against this trap.
Even though I did my best to disregard and dispose of this distorted belief it managed to eek into me, permeate my skin. I and probably many others have picked up these sticks riddled with suffering, of starving. Suffering and starving for the work.
Which led me to this next thing…
There is a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE difference between deep work and suffered work.
This distinction has just now revealed itself to me and thank God it did.
Deep work is work that is pulled up from the depths. It’s the blood and the flesh and the bone and the marrow inside the bone. It’s the truth, the truth that tears and rips. Yet, because it’s the truth, it must be said. The truth how ever dusty, or shiny, or ragged, or bloodied or simple or complicated it must be spoken.
Deep work is DEEP. And thus it will most likely take time and effort and pain.
However, this isn’t to say that digging up the roots of one’s truth can be a joyous discovery similar to the giddy feeling one has while digging for potatoes in October.
Come hell or high water, the truth must be brought up.
Coaxed and excavated through DEEP WORK. If it isn’t…that’s when suffering takes hold.
Suffered work is the kind of work that makes you limp and tired, cold and numb.
Suffered work is the kind of work that screws up your insides and messes with your mind.
SUFFERED WORK TAKES A LOT OF WORK.
Suffered work sucks up a lot of energy. Suffered work is tricky, it’s clever, for because it makes you tired, it tricks you into thinking you’re really working, working hard.
Tricks you into thinking that the cause of you’re exhaustion is DEEP work, when it’s really only suffered work.
Suffered work is like top soil. It’s surface.
So what is suffered work? I’ve come to think of it has a sort of grated flesh feeling embedded with granules of salt on a hot day in the middle of the desert. This could easily describe some nomadic journey, but it’s not. It’s not some transformational experience because the whole time you’re burning and walking, wounds open to the elements with tears streaming down you’re face, you are whining, like a bored child on a road trip.
This brings me to the next point. Chances are NO ONE IS MAKING YOU DO THIS (unless you’re that young kid who probably had no other choice than to go on that road trip with their parents).
Excerpt from Taya’s thoughts:
No one is making you do this Taya, you decided this all by yourself. Why are you moaning and groaning because you have to sew something, draft a pattern or compile a body of costume related research? You’re an art student, a fashion major. Is there a more imaginative, creative field you could be traversing? Probably not. So why are you so very serious?
NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO WALK THE PATH OF YOUR DREAMS. NO ONE IS MAKING YOU FILL A SKETCH BOOK WITH YOUR THOUGHTS OR RUN A MARATHON. NO ONE IS MAKING YOU RAISE A CHILD OR COOK YOUR LOVED ONE(S) DINNER. NO ONE IS MAKING YOU WRITE YOUR THESIS. NO ONE MAKING YOU PULL ALL-NIGHTERS SO YOU CAN FINISH YOUR BUSINESS PLAN OR WRITE YOUR BOOK.
Most of us are lucky enough, BEYOND LUCKY to live in a time and country where we aren’t enslaved or indentured. Most of us aren’t truly beholden to anyone else, only ourselves. So stop whining like that kid in the carseat.
I/YOU/WE MAKE OUR OWN CHOICES AND I/YOU/WE MUST TAKE ALL THAT COMES WITH THOSE DECISIONS. AND IF I/YOU/WE DON’T LIKE THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING, I/YOU/WE ARE ADULTS AND CAN GET OUT OF THE CAR TO WALK IN A NEW DIRECTION.
I/YOU/WE ARE NOT ONLY SERIOUSLY KIDDING OURSELVES BUT SLIGHTING OURSELVES IF WE THINK SOMEONE ELSE IT TO BLAME FOR ALL THE WORK PILED UP ON OUR DESK.
WE CHOSE THIS, WE STUCK OUR FLAG IN THE GROUND AND CLAIMED IT AS OUR OWN. IT WOULD BE FOOLISH TO THINK THAT OUR BARREN, FLEDGLING GROUND DOESN’T NEED A TON OF TILLING AND CULTIVATING AND PLOWING BEFORE IT BLOOMS AND CAN BE HARVESTED.
SO WHILE WE’RE ALL SITTING ON OUR PLOTS OF DUSTY, NEWLY WATER, OR EVEN FRESHLY PLANTED OF LAND ASKING GOD OR WHOEVER WHY WE ARE HERE, SITTING ON A PILE OF DIRT, THE ANSWER IS MOSTLY LIKELY BECAUSE WE CHOSE TO SIT OR STAND ON THAT PILE OF EARTH.
SO LET’S NOT COMPLAIN THAT WE HAVE A FEW ROCKS IN OUR SHOES AND DUST ON OUR CLOTHES.
And thing is, the moment I/You/We begin to complain about the thing we, ourselves have chosen, we lose. We set out to climb a mountain with rocks in our pack and no water (sort of like tourists trying to climb Yosemite Falls wearing flip flops). That wonderful thing has now become repulsive and draining. But it’s really just how you look at it. For instance:
IT’S A PILE OF DIRT.
IT’S A PILE OF DIRT!