Six months ago I wrote about an article by David Brooks in which he introduced the idea of a second mountain in life, the one of meaning and purpose that an individual begins to ascend when they understand that the first mountain of achievement and financial reward is not the ultimate goal. Brooks’ book The Second Mountain; The Quest for a Moral Life is now out and I am finding it just as interesting as the article. One idea in particular that struck me was his distinction between a commitment and a contract. “A commitment,” he writes, “is a promise made from love. A commitment is making a promise to something without expecting a return – out of sheer lovingness.” However, “A person making a contract is weighing pros and cons” (p.55). I realized that when it came to my creativity, I thought I was making a commitment, but I’d really been making a contract. I expected a return from my creativity. I expected that if I take the time to create art that it will provide something more tangible than satisfaction and enjoyment in return, something along the lines of some cold, hard cash to pay my car loan. When I realized that I was approaching my art from a cold-hearted contractual perspective rather than out of love and commitment, I had to ask myself some hard questions:
- Do I really love my art?
- Do I love it enough to continue making it even if I never, ever get anything in return?
- Do I love it enough to go out and get a paying job so that I can support it and me?
- Am I really willing to commit to my art?
Because the answer to all of those questions was “yes,” I next had to decide how I was willing to commit to my art. I had to consider honestly whether I would make my art a priority in my life. Was I willing to work on my creative practice every day or at least during some dedicated time every week, rather than whenever I “find” the time? Would I allow my art to be at the top of my To Do list or would I slot it in somewhere after the personal and household chores? Could I commit to showing my art the respect it deserves and not denigrating it in my own mind or when speaking with others? Could I commit to letting go of ideas of perfection and be willing to share my art?
Like many other commitments in life, I expect that my commitment to my art is one that I will have to renew on a daily basis. But I do love it and committing to put my art first rather than last is a promise I think I can make.
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