Discover more from The Sunday Letters Journal
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
On the inherent risk of experimentation
We leave ourselves open to ridicule. We have no observable sense of direction by all external means of assessment. We flip-flop between ideas and try many things, some of which work and most of which don’t. What do we mean by “work”? Is it to be commercially successful? Is it to be recognised by our peers? Regardless of the subject matter and its perceived objective success or otherwise, we drop what we are doing and move to something else.
I did some drawing a while ago — a portrait in charcoal. It was my first effort, took me ages and it was good. I enjoyed the process and the result and I learned something universal that words find hard to convey. I shared it on social media and the response was very positive, to say the least. My family said I should draw more, I was “talented” apparently. I took a stab at a few other portraits but I dropped the practice pretty much completely. The easel I made sits fragmented in the shed, my charcoal and drawing tools sit in a drawer in my office, and attempted portraits lay tucked into a gap between the wall and a bookshelf in my office.
So what was the point of even trying?
Why bother if you drop whatever it is for something else on merely a whim?
Would you not just stick to one thing and perfect that?
Well, for me and others like me, there is the thrill of trying new things. Objective externally measured success means little. Ok, I get a short-term thrill from recognition, but the truth of the matter is that I run a mile from it. I really don’t like attention, and that’s a bit of a problem, because like most people, at the same time it’s nice to be recognised. We are social animals after all, and without community and relatedness, we fragment completely and die. And so there is an internal fight with oneself.
Freud said we (das Ich) are not masters in our own house. This is true, it seems.
But recognised or not, the value of the work must be in the doing of it for its own sake, for the inherent challenge and enjoyment we receive from it. Because the doing of it is our life and we live that now. Expectation takes us out of now, out of our hearts and into our heads. Now is the only place we can be effective. Regardless, the recognition of others doesn’t last.
The Sunday Letters Journal is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.