Climbing Mountains

Little Bandera Mountain

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.


82 thoughts on “Climbing Mountains

  1. wonderful photo and article…picking the right mountain, there is the challenge! Thank you Otto.

  2. Great image and article, Otto. It’s quite difficult juggling so many things which are important in our lives. Some people seem to manage it admirably, whilst others succumb to stress. Finding the right balance is the key.

  3. It’s all about the journey, isn’t it. Good to be reminded and focus on the present, whether you are in the valley, a trailhead, on a ridge, a cliff face and–sparingly–at the summit. I climb mountains myself and find it is a metaphor for many things, not least the process you’ve adeptly described.

  4. So very true, I’ve always enjoyed the recognition of my creative efforts from receiving high grades at school for my art work to someone gushing over the photographs I’ve just taken for them. Great article. I like the mountain analogy ☺

  5. it also symbolizes that the greater the attitude, the higher the altitude…. mountains signify that the peak of success is about how one endures the subtle betrayal of people, the unpredictability of events and the unfairness of circumstances…….

  6. Well spoken and so true…I had to teach myself to take pleasure in the process of achieving something rather than the pursuit of glittering prizes, often out of reach!!

    1. I think we all have to find that out. 🙂 We all dream about the monetary or the material success, don’t we, and it’s so easy to get side-tracked by the idea. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject, Paula.

        1. I am often like that myself. It’s more fun to start a new project than to actually finish it. But, of course, finishing is part of the creative process. Otherwise, we haven’t really created anything. 🙂

  7. Well said, Otto! It’s about enjoying, delighting in, the journey! And the bit about finding things that fit our skill level and interests (I might add capabilities as I constantly have to adapt to what is possible health-wise)…..but no matter what the constraints, there is always reward to be had in the creative process!

  8. We all need constant reminders of this…thank you. I am old enough to have realized certain facts about life, but forgetting is human – isn’t it. And young people need to take this in – I agree with Tommy there.

  9. Wise words as always Otto. The journey is indeed so important, it is after all, as you so rightly point out, what makes us the artist we are. It’s nice when a little recognition comes along, it can indeed be a spur us to further creativity but it must never become primary goal. Stop enjoying the journey, you cease to be the creative person you are and success will be much less likely anyway.

  10. A beautiful article and I couldn’t agree more. It is nice to get recognition but the true barometer of our personal successes in our journeys should come from within. I love the creativity and sensitivity of artists, be they photographers, painters, writers…..for with each piece they reveal a small part of their soul. As always, a beautiful photograph.

  11. Jahaja, här har vi åter ett intressant spörsmål (lite norskt, eller) och ett väldigt intressant både fysiskt och psykiskt diskussionstema.
    Att bestiga berg?…ja, varför gör vi det egentligen?
    Ja, egentligen är det väl rätt självklart, vare sig det är en fysisk bedrift eller ett mentalt tillstånd…vi vill bevisa något för oss själva eller mestadels för någon annan, tyvärr.
    Så länge det är för vår egen skull är det väl helt ok, då för vi något framåt, då utvecklas vi kreativt…men om det är för omvärlden, ja, då biter vi oss själva i svansen:)
    Men, och nu är jag svart och negativ, så tror jag att det är alltför vanligt med anpassning till “det allmängiltiga”.
    Otto, du tar alltid upp intressanta teman och visst MÅSTE vi fortsätta med bergsbestigningen!!!…utan den är vi ingen och inget.
    Ord, ord, ord…men med mycket innehåll här hos dig!
    Tar till mig, tänker, reflekterar…och svarar.

    1. Du har et veldig godt poeng, Gertie. At vi fortsatt må ta oss opp på fjelltoppene – så lenge det er for vår egen skyld. Javist blir det ord av det, men ord må til om vi skal reflektere over tilværelsen og kreativitet, som en del av den. Jeg setter alltid pris på dine gjennomtenkte kommentarer. Takk, Gertie.

  12. As a mountaineer I see the analogy and share your opinion. If we constantly aim for success we will be disappointed many times. Summits are great to stand on, but the journey to them is the real experience. I enjoy my photography these days in a very selfish way – my images are for me – they are my visual diary. If someone else likes what I shoot then that is icing on the cake.
    I’m also reminded of a quote I read many years ago. and have often used, by a Japanese Photographer Takehide Kazami in a book about the Himalayas. He said: ‘Yoy don’t have to climb a mountain in Nepal to experience the beauty of the country. There is something indescribably delightful in just wandering around the countryside with a small party, the great mountains towering above you” Such a true observation and it fits neatly with what you are writing about Photography, Otto.

    1. You way of shooting is the best; for yourself and enjoying the process. The quote by Takehide Kazami is very relevant as you point out, also personally for me since I have wandered around in the mountains of Nepal without climbing a single one of them. And I did enjoy it immensely.

  13. Very nice. I’ve always thought of success as how you feel about yourself, did you reach your goals and still look at yourself in the mirror.

  14. Som vanligt känns det så bra att stanna upp här i din blogg Otto. Innehållsrikt, tänkvärt och nyttiga påminnelser att ha med sig på resan.
    Bilden tilltalar även mig mycket.

  15. True, Otto. It is indeed about enjoying the process. Everything else is secondary to it. The end result if often a reflection of the passion with which one is involved in the photographic process.

  16. I just happen to have a couple of photos that are relevant. The first is of my grandparents’ fruit cellar, and the second is of me, having climbed my first mountain. Even thought it was no more than twelve or fifteen feet high, I called it my “mountain.” But look at that smile! It’s a reminder that daring the climb in in front of us is better than dreaming about grander climbs we’ll never make.

  17. Very wise words and very inspiring. I’m living in the Austrian mountains and reconnecting with writing. For me, nature and creativity are intrinsically linked. Thank you for sharing.

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