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Mixing things up: pathfinding for the multiple-minded

March 3, 2011

I love reading biographies, articles and blog posts about people’s lives, particularly inspiring people who have achieved “great” things. A quality that most of these high achievers seem to share is single-mindedness. They have an ability to latch on to one idea  and pursue it with intense determination, shutting out distractions, doubts and other ideas.

I’ve recently realised that I lack single-mindedness. I am stubborn, determined and can be extremely hard working. But I am not single-minded. No, I am fickle, I like variety and I like keeping my options open. In general, I prefer working on multiple projects, and learning a little about lots of varied subjects.

This is not related to attention span. I can concentrate very intently when needed, and have often achieved the state of “flow”, most regularly when I am painting. But over the long-haul I prefer to frequently change the subject of my attention. While some people like to master a single area in great depth, others are more inclined to learn a smattering of this and smattering of that, making connections from one subject to another. I am definitely a smatterer.

For three years I worked full-time in a library, which for the most part I really enjoyed. But over time I found I missed art and painting, the buzz of entrepreneurialism, and the freedom to call the shots myself. Now that I’m back in my “studio” full-time, I find myself missing aspects of my day job. Obviously, I miss the security of fortnightly pay days. But even more importantly, I miss interactions with colleagues and customers, the intellectual stimulation of research, and most of all, feeling like I’m being helpful.

When I create pictures, I hope they will bring a little bit of cheer to world. But I struggle to reconcile my desire to make a living painting pictures with the knowledge that I am creating more stuff in a chronically over-stuffed world. Plus, making a living selling pictures, requires a single-minded drive, and I am double-minded. Or possibly even multiple-minded (or would that be poly-minded?) I want time to pursue my personal goals, and opportunities to help others. I want solitary time for solo projects, and social time working with people. Sometimes I long to follow my own whims, but at other times I’d rather just follow orders.

If I continue trying to choose between following the creative path and having a day job I’m pretty sure I’m bound to fail. Before long I’ll always crave the path not taken, leading me to suddenly swerve and throw away any progress I’ve actually made. So, instead of veering wildly, I guess I need to take a path that allows me to gently tack back and forth, making  slow but steady progress towards multiple goals. I’ll have to be patient, as even finding the path may take some time. In fact, I’ll probably need to build it myself. But at least it will allow me to be who I really am, not just one half or the other.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 3, 2011 6:38 pm

    Keep on tacking, gently. There is a place in the world for us smatterers. You will certainly find yours!

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