Yesterday I read a speech Neil Gaiman made to students, about going out into the world to live and work as a creative person. It’s well worth reading. Or watching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=plWexCID-kA He described his vision of his own work as being like a mountain that needed to be reached before it could be climbed. And the importance of balancing the creativity against the need to eat and having some kind of life. But he said that when anything came in, he would consider whether it took him towards, or away from the mountain.
There are so many things in this world that waltz into our lives announcing their own importance. You must do this, or that, you simply have to do the other. Some of these pertain to paid work. Some are about the demands our families, partners and friends may make upon us. Many things are piped into our homes via the media. But of course you want a car, and a shiny kitchen, and a bigger house, and more things, and of course you should spend more time cleaning your many things, and you need, need, need the latest fashions in this, that, and also the other or people will think you’re an idiot. Because you’re worth it. Priceless. Every little helps. Things that waltz in pretending to be helpful, and waltz out again with the contents of your bank account, having deprived you of hours of your life.
Time is the most precious thing we have. You can’t actually buy it, or replace it, and you do not know how much of it you may be going to get. Every choice we make affects the time we have and how we are able to deploy it. Now, if the ‘mountain’ in your life is all about more valuable possessions and fitting in with social expectations about what you ought to want, maybe this isn’t a problem. If the mountain you identify is the home of enlightenment, or a pinnacle of creative excellence, then everything that takes your time and wastes it, takes you away from the mountain, not towards it.
What takes me towards my own, personal mountain? Anything that inspires me, and keeps me feeling able to work. Anything that nourishes my soul and feeds my mind. Poverty is not going to do that. So do I take a regular job to make ends meet, and then try and find time for the real work, or do I stick to the real work and hope I can make it pay? That’s been an ongoing issue. And there’s no clear cut answer as to which would actually take me closer to the mountain. At the moment it suits my child far better to have me around, so working from home makes more sense, and a mountain climbed at his expense is not one I’d want to tackle.
There are lots of potential mountains out there, and most of us cannot hope to scale all of them. Again, there are choices to be made. And sometimes the most obvious and direct route to the mountain turns out not to go there at all. I had a lot of advice to make a thing that would be an obvious, box ticking commercial success, after which I’d be free to do the work I really wanted to do. Only I’ve noticed that people don’t reliably buy obvious box tickers, there is no such thing as a sure fire hit, or a guaranteed publishing success. And once you’re known for putting out box tickers, are you really going to be free to follow your muse? I doubt it. I chose not to go that way.
Know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Know what you want your life to be, and how what you are actually doing is part of that. It makes as much sense for Druidry as it does for design work, or dancing. Even knowing, there will be paths that turn out not to work, and surprise short cuts, and all manner of other things.
Today, I have beaten an innocent metaphor to death. Tomorrow, I shall edit my way towards world domination. I think I know what I’m doing, but most of the time I have no idea how, or if, it’s going to work. But that’s fine. I’d lose interest, if I knew exactly what was going to happen.
Thank you Mr Gaiman. For the inspiration, and the ideas, and the possibility of mountains.