Have you ever watched an interview where someone asks an actor/artist/writer/creator/whatever what their advice for other aspiring whatevers is, and their response is: “Just Do the Thing!”
This is not very good advice. Obviously, there were some extra steps that made that whoever whatever they are. It seems almost insulting to hear their success reduced to such a simple statement. It sounds like, “it’s easy, I did it, so just get off your lazy ass and Do, dummy!”
Yeah, I get the idea behind the advice – don’t be afraid to fail, the first step is the most important step, everyone has to start somewhere, don’t let fear hold you back, blah blah blah. But starting is very, very hard.
I mean, where do you even start? So many ideas, so many options, it’s overwhelming. Do you start by taking a class and then burning yourself out because now the thing you love is homework? Do you hop into an internship and then hate it once you’re getting forced to do it for little pay? Do you just go in blind and Do That Thing, only to have others ridicule your amateur work?
And how do you even quantify The Thing, anyways? It’s incredibly difficult to find the time to let yourself do something that isn’t guaranteed to pay the rent. If you can’t get paid in money, you want to get paid in praise at least, right? But that’s not guaranteed, either. How do you carve out the time for something that might mean nothing?
Of course, suffering from anxiety and depression makes it all the harder to Do The Thing. If you’re like me, you go to work and end up shirking your duties because you can’t stop thinking about how much you’re wasting your time by not Doing The Thing. To assuage this feeling, you make a list of all the preparation you’re going to do for The Thing when you get home. You get home sad and exhausted, and immediately pass the fuck out. Get up the next morning, wash, rinse, repeat.
In my mind, I felt that depression was the only thing stopping me. I fought to get better so that I had the energy to stay awake for more than 10 hours. Being awake definitely helps, but it’s still all very hard. Doing the Thing is hard.
It’s frustrating that so many people pretend that all it takes is passion and hard-work. You can have all the passion in the world, but if you’re working 40+ hours a week doing something else to survive, that passion will get ground down to dust.
If you’re lucky, that passion dust will sort of accumulate in a corner of your brain, and you can gather it up in a little pile when you’re feeling well enough to clean off the cobwebs. But what if that day you have to go to work? What if that day your mom is sick? What if the babysitter cancelled? It doesn’t matter that you’re willing to put the work into the Thing, the world won’t always let you. Your passion gets scattered once again, and you have to hope you won’t lose whatever granules are left.
Sometimes you can get back to it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes it takes months, other times years. You can’t get The Thing done by age 25 or whatever year you’ve arbitrarily chosen to achieve your lofty goals. It just be like that.
This isn’t meant to be a depressing post about how all our dreams will never come true. If I thought all hopes and dreams were wastes of time, I wouldn’t still be writing.
No, my point is, don’t let someone tell you that everything is as easy as just Doing the Thing. The people who spout such simple advice probably never had to deal with chronic health issues, shitty landlords, and “sleep-for-dinner” nights. They often forget to mention things like, “my parents lent me $100,000 so I could Do The Thing!” Either that, or they’re just too lazy to give you real advice. :p
Don’t beat yourself up for having to work at an office or warehouse or the mall in the meantime, either. Needing to make money to live is not something to be ashamed of. Ensuring that you have a roof over your head and food to eat before you become a Master Artist does not mean you’re slacking or lack passion. It means you need to live. It’s fine. You’re fine.
Take your time. Figure out your steps. Don’t be frustrated when it takes many, many tries to figure out which Thing you even want to be Doing. Don’t compare yourself to other people who are living vastly different lives. You’ll figure it out. Shit will happen along the way, but you’ll figure it out.