Doing because we do

Have you ever kept doing something because that’s what you do? You kept going, long after the hunger for it was gone and long after the curiosity and energy went out of it. If you ask yourself why you’re still there, the answers have nothing to do with why you started and none of them are very compelling. You kept at it because you didn’t know who you’d be without it.

There’s discipline through distraction and boredom. It feels different. Discipline is the answer when you feel compelled to do something but you’re procrastinating. You want to finish what you started but everything else, anything else, is shinier.

This goes deeper. You know, deep in your gut, when you’ve fallen into a rut.

I recently decided to step away from a dance style I’ve done for several years. Zouk lambada used to thrill me like nothing else could. I’d hear the music and have to join in. I couldn’t wait for the next lesson and I turned up to every event. It met a deep need to move, breathe, balance, dance, connect and be social.

Nothing about the dance has changed. It’s still poetic and mesmerising. There’s still a fantastic scene that gathers around to share their love for it but somewhere along the line, I changed.

I changed but I kept going. I felt like I should, because people expected me to. I was demonstrating commitment.

I was there because I was a zouker and that’s really the downside to naming yourself as a something. It adds so much extra pressure that doesn’t need to be there.

I had to stop because I didn’t want to associate something I loved with negative ‘should’ feelings. There’s lots of things you really should do in your life like turn up to work and trim your toenails and call your mother. A passion must never fall into that category.

The power of calling yourself a something is incredibly potent. It can be freeing or binding, depending on what you use it for. Once upon a time, it was freeing to declare myself a dancer when I was pressured to live without dance. Let me tell you, a life without dancing is no life at all (I’m still dancing, just a different style).

On the flip side, labelling yourself can be binding when it gets in the way of enjoying something which has the sole purpose of bringing you pleasure.

For example, I wish I felt about writing the way I feel about photography. I have no demons about photography. It’s an interest, a curiosity, a pleasure. It’s wonderful to capture a moment and create a little snippet of beauty that I can revisit any time. I don’t actually care whether anyone thinks I’m good at it or not. I have no insecure, inner monologue. I never decided that I was going to be a photographer.

Writing is different. I worry about it. I criticise it. I fix it fifty times. I post something on a new blog and wonder why nobody likes it. I stare at my notebook full of novel scribbles and I wonder, am I really a writer? Am I a good one? Where’s the proof of that? I’ve always wanted to and been afraid to be a writer.

Interest requires no evidence or proof of value. It’s just fun. It’s the labels that stir up the critic who says ‘oh yeah? and what makes you one of those? Are you any good?’

There’s no fathomable life worth living that doesn’t include writing or dancing. Even if I tried to hold it in, it would build up and burst out. I will always play with words. I will always dance to music and that’s the best and only reason to keep doing something. Do it because that’s what you do and who you are. Not the label, the interest.

A label sticks you into one form. An interest transforms creative fire into lots of different forms and most importantly, doesn’t give a shit about whether it’s any good.

The whole point is simply joy.

You might spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end — except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that … you lived a rich and splendid life.
Elizabeth Gilbert — Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear