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You can’t continually sustain yourself on new ideas that don’t offer you any real-world change.
Don't get me wrong, new ideas are the bread and butter of creative folk as well as the world at large, but too many ideas not backed up by action can be dangerous. They become baseless and tinted with the darker shade of the romantic.
I’ve always had a problem with romanticizing. I inflate ideas, people, jobs, emotions, you name it. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, I just can’t help but do it regardless. I never take any of the things I romanticize that seriously because I know this about myself, so things usually even out after a healthy dose of realism.
After a few years getting my feet to tiptoe the ground and my head now only crowning the clouds instead of being engulfed in them, it’s been a hell of a lot easier to see things realistically instead of sustaining myself on the fantasies that follow the phrase, “We should totally…”
I’ve noticed, however, a pattern of behavior that seems to be peaking its way back into my daily programming. It’s the same sort of future-projecting that kept my old self in a state of stasis where just the idea of doing something was enough to prolong the actual action it took to get started.
Whereas in years past I would talk and talk about all the different kinds of projects I wanted to pursue but would fail to act on them, now, although I talk less and act more, it still feels as if the current goals for myself are just as illusory and romanticized.
Let me make it clearer what I mean:
For years, some friends and I had an idea for a comedy sitcom. We talked and talked about it and came up with all sorts of ideas. We even wrote things down sometimes! Such busy bees we were! Except for the fact that we never actually put in the kind of work it takes to get something as complicated as a television show off the ground. We loved the idea of being showrunners and being able to sit around a writer's room goofing off and coming up with outlandish storylines, but none of us knew the first thing about television production or knew anyone who did. We had a camera and some silly ideas. For anyone with the drive to make something for the sake of making it, this is more than enough to start creating. We didn’t have that drive, though. Lost in a loop of mindless restaurant work, bad personal health habits, and a general lack of get-up-and-giddy-up energy, our dreams stayed just that, unrealized potential.
You would have thought that after so long not getting things started, we would have simply moved on after realizing the ideas weren’t going anywhere, but no. We, myself especially, used the exciting energy of the idea itself to sustain the feeling of accomplishment without ever having accomplished anything. Because I had thought the idea of what I wanted to do was so good, I spent all my time evolving it in my imagination instead of doing the tedious and sometimes overwhelming work it takes to get something like that started in real life.
Fast forward a few years.
There’s a new idea in my mind and it’s been there for some time now: I want to make a living as a writer.
In my group of friends, they may have had their talents in other areas, but I was always the one that had a way with words. The “writer” part of that previous fantasy hasn’t changed, but the way in which I’m pursuing it as a career path has.
This has come with both a semi-enlightened optimism for the future as well as a sort of leery suspicion of my past habits.
I used the fantasy of running a show carry my lack of action for years before, so is what I’m doing now any different?
Is the idea of working for myself and making money writing what I want to write just a new way of sustaining my current state of mind and circumstances? Is the action I actually have been taking enough to justify the continuation of this dream without having to add the word ‘pipe’ before it? Should I double my efforts before I can confidently and accurately say that I’m actively pursuing an independent writing career? Triple them?
What is the rate of progress one must be making in their chosen field that allows them to lay claim to the pursuit of a particular goal?
Think about yourself.
What kinds of things do you know you inflate to make it seem as if you’re doing more than you are? What do you tell yourself that convinces you that your life is more than it seems? Is it justified? Are you making active efforts and making tangible progress, or are you spending mental energy ideating the day away and living in the romantic fantasy that your initial idea has evolved into?
If you’re not careful and you don’t act on your ideas fast enough, they start to grow in size. After enough inaction and neglect, they inflate enough to shadow your decision-making skills. The steps it takes to manifest the fantasy begin to seem insurmountable and unrealistic. So much so that you let even more time go by and even more time feeding the delusion of “one day.”
I did it for years with my show idea (although I did eventually write the pilot! It now sits in a file waiting to be edited…still, yay me!), and I’m sure a lot of you out there have done it with your own unrealized dreams.
The question remains, is the path you’re on now made of tangible clop-trotting dirt, or are you still trying to walk on clouds without first getting your pilot’s license? Are you taking those real and raw dirty boot steps on your way to claim the throne of the fabled abandoned castle? Or have you gotten so lost looking for shooting stars that you can’t bear to face the reality that you’re miles into the woods with a long-broken compass?
You have to be able to discern when you’ve replaced old, unrealized ideas with new ones that are serving the same function, only look prettier.
In my opinion, if you’re making a daily effort toward any sort of goal, you should be able to confidently say that the means are going to justify the ends eventually. Sustaining your accountability and simply showing up are the gears and gonads that make up any kind of pursuit.
We can’t delude ourselves into thinking that the fantasy is enough. It never has been nor ever will be. If your dream loses its luster simply by looking at the daily steps that need to be taken to achieve it, you might need to reevaluate what it is about the dream that you’re so attached to.
After I was 100% honest with myself I realized I just wanted to sit around with my friends coming up with funny bullshit. I didn’t want to learn about production equipment, or make phone calls to businesses and managers, or sit around editing the same shot for hours, or worry about casting, or do any of the things that a T.V. show is literally made of. So, after realizing that the writing part was the only thing I was actually interested in, I put that dream aside to start developing myself in the one way I actually cared about.
Now, although I still have that forever-itchy feeling that I’m always romanticizing my goals, this time I at least have work to show for all that idealism. I have footprints that lead back to where I started as proof that I’ve come this far. Regardless if there is some ultimate achievement at the end of all this effort, I can still say that I’ve planned realistically, grown personally, and evolved creatively.
And at the end of the day, if those aren’t their own Earthly rewards, I might need to change planets altogether.