“You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident-it has to be intentional.” — Mark Udall
Nothing is ever easy. Have you noticed that? Everything takes more effort than we think it will.
Last month, I came up with this epic post idea. I had all kinds of notes and rough doodles. I hunkered down in my studio office to draw and compose. But then the phone rang. It was my tax advisor with some questions.
An hour later, after rifling through old tax files and documents, I was back at the computer. “Now, where was I,” I thought to myself. I scanned my notes and drawings, recalled where I left off, and dove back in.
Things were progressing nicely when my wife sauntered into my office and asked if I forgot. “Forgot? No, I haven’t forgot. Not at all,” I told her. Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Well, you better hurry and get the dogs, or you’ll be late,” she said before leaving.
Then it hit me. The dogs had a grooming appointment. I hit save on my computer, grabbed the leashes, ushered the dogs into my car and sped off.
Later, the dog groomer, Cassie, said she’d call when the dogs were ready for pickup.
Do you have a minute?
As I drove off, I realized that I didn’t have any cash to tip Cassie. So, I headed off to the bank. One of the bankers recognized me at the ATM and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Weiss. You called last week about your mother’s checking account. Do you have a minute?”
A minute turned into an hour meeting. My mother is an 84 year old Parkinson’s patient, and I handle all of her financial and legal affairs. I’m happy to do it, but it can be time consuming.
I got home, exhausted, and settled into my office studio. I fired up the MacBook Pro and flipped through my sketch book. “Let’s see if I can finally construct that epic post,” I thought to myself.
Just as I finally fell into a productive groove, my cell phone rang. It was Cassie, telling me that the boys (my dogs) were ready for pickup. Ugh!
I arrived at the grooming office (which is also our veterinary office) to collect my pooches. Cassie came out and said, “Since you’re here, the doctor wanted to ask you about Chug’s (my smallest dog, a pug/chihuahua mix) vaccinations. He’s overdue for something. Can you wait?”
So I waited. And waited. The veterinarian finally came out and apologized. Something about a cat’s “damaged spleen.” She explained the shots my dog was overdue for, and I approved the immunizations. “Okay, we’ll just get Chug his shots, and you can be on your way,” she told me.
Needless to say, most of my day was shot (no pun intended). By the time I got home, it was nearly dinner. My wife and son suggested sushi. Defeated, I agreed, and at the sushi restaurant I ordered a Sapporo beer.
Beer is a lot like wine. Demotivation in a glass. By the time we got home, I abandoned my epic blog post and cartoons. I was tired and a bit irritable.
The mountain won.
There is usually a toll
We’ve all got our excuses. Work steals a lot of time. There’s that daily commute. The mortgage is like a monthly ball and chain. It slows you down, but you need the house. You need the job. After all, it provides health care and some dental coverage. I get it.
We trudge off to work, schedule our vacations, and carve out moments to fan the creative embers still inside our hearts. They may be smoldering, but somehow our dreams keep the flames from flickering out.
The flames represent our passions. Be it art, music, sports. Whatever it is that quickens our hearts. These passions are like mountains. We have no choice but to climb them. Because they are there, in front of us.
Passions, like mountains, are not easily conquered. There is usually a toll. Obstacles. Costs to bear, if we are to achieve something to be proud of.
But the price of ignoring our passions is worse. A dream long ignored or a passion abandoned, leaves a dead spot in our hearts and souls.
“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” — Michael Jordan
Stargates to your dreams
I want to tell you to climb that mountain. One step at a time. Climb that mountain.
I know it’s hard. Some days we’re defeated. But every now and then, the stars align, and we move forward with our creative passions.
Don’t get distracted by all the people documenting their “glamorous” lives on social media. The ski trips, rock concerts, parties, cool pictures, fit bodies and smiles. All of that stuff is curated to reflect the best of their lives. They leave out the mundane. The taxes, divorces, addictions.
Trust me. Extraordinary lives are illusory. Even the rich and famous have demands, commitments, deadlines, fatigue and unhappiness. Life isn’t consistently neat and perfect. There will always be rough spots.
The trick is to keep climbing that mountain. It’s the journey and the effort that hone us. Shape us. Make us more than we are.
Somehow, beyond the nine to five routine, day care runs and obligations, you have to squeeze in your art. Your passions. You know, that sad little art studio in the closet. Your writing desk in the garage. That makeshift recording studio in the barn.
These improvised spaces are portals to the true you. Stargates to your dreams. Create them, use them, and never be embarassed by their humble appearance. If J. K. Rowling can craft literary gold while on welfare in coffee shops, you can conjure your magic anywhere.
Don’t give up on your creative spirit
Keep climbing that mountain. Don’t give up on your creative spirit. Carve out time where you can. Don’t let the digital lives of others depress you. Beyond the pretty pictures and smiles, they have their struggles, too.
Your art is like a dear old friend. She’s always there. Always happy to see you, when you visit.
During the parenting years, the days are long but the years are short. The diapers, sleepless nights, little league, messy rooms and teenage angst? They’ll pass and you’ll wonder where they went.
Remember to slow down. Don’t try to rush past the seasons of your life. They’re a part of your mountain climb, too.
Check out this video by Trace Adkins. It perfectly illustrates my point.
When you’re in the thick of it, it seems far away. But it isn’t. I well remember all the nights I drove my son to his martial arts classes. And I remember the day, after several years, when he earned his blackbelt. What a joy.
Yet, even during those hectic years, there was time for my art. Where, you ask? How?
“The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters.” — Conrad Anker
Start by giving television a vacation. Same with that enticing laptop, with its digital rabbit holes. A quick jaunt through your Facebook timeline can kill an hour or more. That could be time in the studio, writing office or recording room.
Yes, you’re tired. The creative mood is distant or asleep. Pick up the brush anyway. Push some paint around. Craft some poetry in that Moleskine journal.
See what you can shape with that clay. Or what musical arrangement you can create. Half the battle is just showing up. It works even better if you set a schedule. Every morning at 5:30 am? Or an hour before bed? Your internal rhythms will dictate.
Don’t become bitter because of your many commitments to work, family and friends. As you age, the blessings of these things become more apparent.
Ignoring them to pursue your passions, has a way of hollowing out the joy of your passions. You must balance both.
Rise above the clouds
You need to climb that mountain. Being a creative requires fortitude. You have to be a persistent soul. You have to learn how to say no to people. You have to develop mastery of your time management.
Most people lack self-control and consistent willpower. Setting routines, habits, and associating with the right people will help. Avoid those who pull you away with destructive behavior.
Seek simplicity wherever you can. Cutting out the nonessential from your life clears the way for what matters. Your family, friends, health and passions.
So, do me a favor. If you’re discouraged or tired, don’t give up. Keep climbing that mountain. Don’t worry about those artists and creatives who are further along than you.
This is your journey, not theirs. Push yourself, forgive yourself, but keep climbing that mountain. Sometimes the mountain will win, but then, nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.
There is great joy in art and creativity, no matter what particular point you are on the mountain. Just keep ascending.
“I think I will be able to, in the end, rise above the clouds and climb the stairs to Heaven, and I will look down on my beautiful life.” — Yayoi Kusama
It’s a beautiful mountain, and a joyous place to spend your time. Until you’re ready for the next plateau. And should you reach the summit, rest assured, there are taller mountains beyond the horizon.
It’s all part of this marvelous journey we’re on.
Before you summit
I’m John P. Weiss, fine artist and writer. Get on my free email list here to receive the latest artwork and writing.