Post from May, 2017

You Keep Using That Word…

Sunday, 21. May 2017 23:49

“Acting is my passion” are words that I often hear from my students, sometimes repeatedly. Usually it’s not true, at least if one is to judge by their behavior. Passion is one of those things that you usually don’t have to be told about; you can see it in the behavior of the person. I keep wanting to say, in the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” But I don’t. I think they think that passion for something means they enjoy it, which does fit one of the dictionary definitions.

In my experience, however, Passion and enjoyment do not mean the same thing. Some artists have a passion that they don’t necessarily enjoy; rather, their passion is what drives them. And while many artists revel in their passions, others do not enjoy being as driven as they are.

And passions, it turns out, do not necessarily respect one’s desires. A musician I was talking with the other night mentioned his daughter, a senior in high school. Unknowingly, I asked if she played. He launched into a short tirade about how she played in marching band, but did not enjoy the music part; she liked the marching, and the patterns, and the being outdoors. According to him, she had no passion. He went further to say that his kids’ only passion was the smart phone, which they “played” with great expertise. The situation, I think, was not that his daughter had no passion, but rather that she had no passion for music (which evidently disappointed him). Her fondness for the outdoors, or intricate marching patterns could, conceivably, develop into passions, and she might have other passions as well.

Or she might not. I don’t necessarily believe that everyone has a passion, or even the capability for being passionate. I rather suspect that real passion is somewhat rare. Many people go through their whole lives without it, and don’t really seem to miss it. In fact, I think people without what I would call passion are in the majority.

The minority—and I believe it is a very small minority—who are passionate about something don’t have to tell you. What they do tells you. What they talk about tells you. What they think about tells you. How they spend their time tells you. The way they live tells you.

Take for example Nolan Ryan (and forgive me if I have told this story before). I know a person who went to high school with Ryan and who says that all he ever cared about was throwing a baseball. He did it for hours a day, every day. He was obsessed; he was passionate about throwing a baseball. And that passion was responsible for a remarkable career and more than a few records.

Passion is one of those words like Art that I have always been hesitant to claim for fear of sounding pretentious. It seemed a word that was more appropriate in a romantic (or Romantic) novel. You will seldom hear people who are genuinely passionate about anything talk about that passion; they are too busy dealing with it to discuss it.

While some people are disconcerted by those who are passionate, I appreciate and admire them. They are the ones who set records, who make break-through discoveries, who invent new technologies, who create great art.

So if you are one who has passion, my advice—worth exactly what you are paying for it—is to rejoice in it, celebrate it, let it lead you, live it.

Category:Communication, Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

Take Time to Recreate

Sunday, 7. May 2017 23:13

Like you, I have very little down time; I jump from project to project to project. In my leisure time, I do those personal projects that bring me little income but a lot of joy. So, like you, I’m really always working. And I’m a list-maker, so when I’m “relaxing” in the back yard, I’m making notes on what maintenance items need attending.  My experience with “vacations” has not been rewarding; they have typically consisted of a lot of time getting places and thinking about what I needed to do when I get back.

And even though I have read articles such as philosophy and psychology writer Olivia Goldhill’s “The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time,” which cites various authorities on the value of taking time away from work and recreating, I was never quite able to find the time to take time off.

Last month, I was invited to spend the afternoon and evening at a waterfront house that some friends had for the weekend. Even though this was not something I would normally do, I accepted. Arriving just after a cold front, I spent the afternoon and evening on a deck chair under a blanket. I watched the dark water and let my mind wander. Instead of making lists or worrying about a project, I began to think of nothing in particular. I think it may have been the longest time of being in the present without making lists or contemplating projects or evaluating my life that I have ever experienced—perhaps because the temperature and the wind demanded that I concentrate on the present to remain comfortable.

The result was an astounding (to me) sense of tranquility. My mind was still, my outlook positive. I felt more rested that I usually do upon waking after a full night’s sleep. It was like the work I had been doing with mindfulness for years finally flowered. The day following was just as calm; I was able to evaluate potential projects that had been causing me issues calmly and unemotionally creativity juices began to flow. And the best part was there was none of that “I’ve taken time away, so now I have to catch up.” I simply felt refreshed.

Last next week I found myself on a bench looking at Puget Sound, doing essentially the same thing. The weather was warmer and the bench was in a public park and it was early afternoon, but the experience was essentially the same. And this experience only reinforced the first. In neither case was the outcome expected; I don’t know that I had any real expectations, but what I got will facilitate my creativity and ongoing project work immeasurably.

I had accidentally recreated. Dictionary.com says that recreate means: “to refresh by means of relaxation and enjoyment, as restore physically or mentally.” It is not necessarily something that I advocated before. But now that I have experienced the real thing, I cannot advocate enough.

I’m not suggesting that you go rent a house by the bay. What I am suggesting is that you find whatever it is for you that will allow you to “just be,” to spend some time thinking of nothing. Perhaps, like me, you will happen upon it accidentally. Perhaps it will be an activity that you were never able to fully embrace before. However you get there, you will find that Goldhill’s conclusion is correct: it is time well spent that will ultimately make you better at what you do.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

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