The driving force behind most creative activity is the creative process in and of itself. The road is the end itself not a means to reach some higher goal. I have said this before. At the same time I recognize that most creative people—whether professionals or amateurs—all the same seek acknowledgement and some kind of success to gauge their creative endeavour. Nothing wrong with receiving some measurement of encouragement for work done, as I wrote in the post Finding Bearing, some weeks ago. Indeed, being recognized in some shape or form certainly may spur the creative growth further.
However, if success becomes the main objective for our creativity we stand to lose exactly that creative self that makes our art or our expression unique. I believe climbing—or hiking— mountains is a good analogue for the creative process. If all that matters is reaching the top, everything else becomes a hassle and pure arduous. We struggle and fight for only moments of triumph at the top—if we are able to reach it at all. Haven’t we all at some point in life, climbed that mountain only to find that the sun disappeared and all view got concealed by foggy clouds that came in just before we reached the summit? Had we instead enjoyed the hike or the climb on the way up, we would have been able to take pleasure in the sun, the lovely flowers, the animals, the slowly opening of the view as we got higher, the rests in between the work, feeling the body doing some good workout.
Pursuing creativity ought to be the latter. Instead, we too often seek out the highest mountain (in a manner of speaking), thinking the view will be better there. But what is a better view? It’s not the highest top that makes the journey better. It’s not how much effort it takes but the work itself that makes the journey worthwhile. As the American president Theodore Roosevelt said: «Far and away the best prize life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.»
Or to quote Yvon Chouinard, the famous mountaineer: «How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.» Success isn’t planting the flag at the top of a peak. It’s embracing the challenge and enjoying the view at any point. As such, success isn’t only external results, but even more so an internal reward. For Chouinard climbing is not about getting to the top, but about changing yourself as a person and a climber (or an artist).
We can’t all climb Mount Everest or K2 (which is suppose to be one of the most challenging peaks in the world). Instead, we need to find tops and peaks that fit our skill level and our interests. If it’s the hill next to your house, then that is just as good an endeavour as seeking out the highest peak in your area. Again, it’s not the height of a mountain that makes climbing it worthwhile, but being able to enjoy the accent no matter how.
The way the world most often define success doesn’t fit for creative work. Success is more than a list of accomplishments. Success is leading a fulfilling life as a creative person and as a whole, with family, friends or whatever else matters to you. To be successful in this sense, we still have to fight, but we have to fight in the right way. We have to pick the right mountain to climb. And maybe even more important; the biggest success isn’t even just about you, but about accomplishing dreams and inspiring others to do the same.
Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon EOS-5D and the lens set at 74 mm. Exposure time was 1/500 of a second and the aperture f/8.0. It was processed in Lightroom and then the app Instagram with the Lo-Fi-filtet.