Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Of Passion, Creativity, Work and Muse

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is these people who follow a passion and are lucky enough to do it for their livelihood.

As I watched the truly stunning performance by Muse at Wembley Stadium the other night I felt conscious that I was seeing three talented beyond belief musicians at the very top of their game doing something they love and gettting paid hugely for it in every way possible.

There are musicians, artistes, writers and vocational types like Doctors and teachers, many of whom have chosen to pursue the thing they love to make a living. Some of them succeed and become the Muses, the de Niros, the JK Rowlings and the, well, Gregory Houses of the world, making fortunes, gaining wordlwide recognition and of course doing lots of work for charity, though not talking about it.

Others, the vast majority, play in bands in pubs and clubs after work (something I know quite a lot about), write books and blogs or act in fringe theatre and spend most of their money to do it. We dream of that big break, yes even at my age, yet know it's unlikely to come.

Here in the UK the music scene is so stark that the only musicians making any money are the ones who suddenly wake up to find themselves in a famous band, often talented but rarely the most gifted and brilliant musicians around. A couple of rungs down the ladder we find the world of the top quality session guy. There are ten, perhaps twenty, amazingly good drummers here who get most of the work going.

They're the best around, hard working, with interpersonal skills that Bill Clinton would admire and they have the respect and admiration of all their fellow musicians. Despite all that, despite the fact they probably earn a "comfortable" living, few of them are truly well off in financial terms. Perhaps their richness is measured in their job satisfaction, perhaps they're less motivated by money than the guy playing drums in the Manic Street Preachers is.

So, excepting the rare millionaires, it does seem that for the rest of us we have to decide between following our passion and making some money. In my case I didn't even find my passion until I was thirty one. Until then I hadn't even sat behind a drum kit, let alone found out that I might be able to play a bit.

I often look at people who've been playing since they were young kids and feel a sense of envy. There are teenagers who've been playing the drums for longer than I have now, who are much better players at that young age than I will ever be. But then I realise that I've made that trade with the devil, I've tried to build a business, to make some money and live a certain kind of materialistic lifestyle. One that I do enjoy.

Had I found my passion when I was a kid I feel sure I would have tried to pursue it professionally. Then the chances are that I would have ended up as one of the thousands of penniless musos here. I'd have loved every single split second of my work, I'd have got more satisfaction out of it then a nymphomaniac porn star gets out of his job.

And I'd be struggling to pay the rent. I'd probably only have two or three pairs of designer jeans, maybe even a smaller engined BMW 3 series, that's how bad things would be.

But would I be happier?

I really think not.

But I admire the passion following chaps, I really do.

What about you?


Charlene said...

I have always been fascinated by intelligent skilled people. Creativity is something I wish I had, though I always say I am a great critic; knowing what is wonderful.

It is sad I think to loose all the accumulated wisdom, skill and knowledge of someone who has mastered something.

Marc said...

business/entrepreneurship is a passion too, and it's addictive ! It is also some that you can get better at, and the earlier you start the more time to have make mistakes and learn. We are also more risk taking when we are younger, have less to lose and haven't yet got accustomed to a certain level of materialism.
I know I enjoy the thrills and uncertainties of running a business. It's also a passion of mine (amoung many other things) and I feel very luck to be making a living doing something I enjoy...bring on those Monday mornings !

Sach said...

Aren't you essentially talking about the 'famous' or 'successful', not necessarily the passionate?

There are a lot of people who are passionate about what they do, and get paid for it. I think it all comes down to what it takes to satisfy you. Remember the Mexican Fisherman?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Charlene - I too admire people with a high degree of creativity. I think many overestimate the value of critical thinking, forgetting that it takes one set of skills to criticise another's idea and a competely different set to come up with the idea in the first place.

Marc - Yes, I think any area can be a person's passion. I'm lucky in that I enjoy and probably love my job, yet it's not my passion. I do it as a means of making my living, though as jobs go it's a pretty good one!

Sach - I think what I was trying to say is that the famous ones are rare and that the rest of us are often faced with a choice between following our passion or making money. The majority of people I know who are pursuing their passion make very little money, though there are some lucky ones like Marc above.

Thanks all for the comments.

Gallicissa said...

I am a passion follower since 13. I glad that I started early. It's fantastic to get paid to engage in my hobbies!