2015-04-27

Compulsion

I live and work amongst people who are, for the most part, a lot more driven than I feel. Or at least they put in the appearance of people who are more driven than I am, which I think must count for a kind of achievement in and of itself. Over many years spent observing, working with, and learning from talented creative people, I came to the conclusion long ago that there’s an element of compulsion to the highest levels of talent and craft. The people who are the best they are at what they do don’t just enjoy what they do — they’re driven to do what they do, in the sense of creating the very real impression that if they were ever denied the ability to do what they do, something in them would break.

My biggest problem (at least when I dig down below the even more obvious problems) is that I don’t feel that compulsion. Or at least I don’t feel it with the kind of singular strength that’s always been missing from my life for some reason. I understand that compulsion. I know what it’s supposed to feel like, and I understand the mechanics of being driven to do the best work I can do, and I’m comfortable with the notion that each thing I do is slightly better than the last thing I did, which I think is ultimately the only long-term goal that any creative person can set for themselves. But against this sense of acceptance of what I probably should be feeling creatively, there’s this sense of distraction that I’ve never been able to shake. Not just the sense of dread and self-loathing that I think accompanies every creative endeavor (and that’s totally, healthy, right?) — but a sense that my lack of a singular compulsion comes from too many competing compulsions all hammering away at each other.

I was thinking about this in the context of a recent conversation (repeating a conversation I’ve had a lot of times), talking about how I have a unique job that consists of a lot of smaller jobs all puzzle-locked together into a singular something that is my life. I do a bit of fiction editing, I do a bit of RPG editing, I do a bit of RPG design, I do a bit of story editing and consulting for film, I do a bit of writing for myself. Trying to make a living doing any one of those things would be difficult — maybe even impossible given my geographic and emotional distance from the places I’d need to be in order to be more active in any one of those endeavors. But taking everything all together, I make out pretty well.

For me, this cobbled-together creativity makes a damn fine enterprise, in that I like all of what I do, and being able to do different things makes it much less likely that I’ll ever get bored of any one particular thing. Against the sense of those singularly focused people who would break if their compulsion to creativity and ever-increasing perfection was ever denied them, I think about myself and see a person who could probably absorb the loss of a single lesser compulsion. If circumstances prevailed to prevent me from doing one of the things I do, it wouldn’t kill me. But I’m not sure if that’s as good a thing overall as it seems. Because the problem with being widely focused on a number of things is that no matter how cool those individual things are, there’s always this nagging sense that you’re never going to be as focused on one thing as you really need to. And that without that focus, you’re never going to get as good at any of those singular things as you really want to.