Ayn Rand described the highest mode of living life as being, in part, “one’s acceptance of the responsibility of forming one’s own judgments and of living by the work of one’s own mind.”
To live well means to work well.
And, conversely, to work well means to live well.
Each one serves to fuel the other.
Virginia Woolf said that creative work “is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”
This sort of work, however – that is, the work that is worthy of doing – necessitates and demands a few key things in lifestyle…
Virginia Woolf urged the aspiring creative to secure “a room of one’s own.” A creative needs space – of his or her own – in which to sit in solitude, to deconstruct the input and rebuild it into something new.
A lock on a door offers one the means and the place – and ultimately the power – to think for oneself.
SECURE THE FINANCIAL WHEREWITHAL TO CALL YOUR OWN SHOTS
Wealth – or financial independence – afford us intellectual freedom.
“When I ask you to earn money and have a room of your own, I am asking you to live in the presence of reality, an invigorating life.”
We also need to carve out figurative space ourselves. Mental space – space to sit in silence, secure freedom of mind and liberty of person.
SETTLE THOUGHTS AND FIND PEACE OF MIND
We cannot carry resentment, anger, fear or any other sentiments of negativity into our work. If we do, this energy will permeate it, tarnishing it. The work must be done for the work’s sake – from a place of creation and conviction – rather than contentiousness or callousness.
APPROACH THE MUNDANE WITH CAUTION
Only simple minds suffer consistent stillness and stagnation gladly.
On the one hand, mundane work permits a “mindlessness,” which, if taken advantage of, can actually provide an advantageous space to do other thinking. (Also, mundane work can offer income that yields the necessary income.)
The risk with mundanity is when we can’t escape from it – if we build our lives with work that is mundane, come home to spaces that are mundane, and set ourselves to tasks that are mundane. “Mending stockings and minding stew,” for example, are things that not contradict and challenge creativity, but kills it, mostly by way of strangling the spirit.
“It is vain to say that human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility; they must have action, and they will make it if they cannot find it.” And “tranquility,” we should realize, was just Woolf’s way of saying “leisure,” the perpetual pursuit of which brings on a slow death of creativity.
“Better to exist in near-poverty and have the freedom to create,” she asserted, “than exist in luxury and feel repressed or stifled.”
COMBAT MUNDANITY BY SEEKING STIMULATION
Seek what inspires, intrigues and excites.
Julia Cameron, author and teacher of “The Artist’s Way,” encourages the aspiring creative to take what she calls “artist dates” – time set aside for yourself alone, in which you engage in activities or places that inspire.
Virginia Woolf sought London, where she walked the streets and lusted to “feed abundantly upon the lives of men and women and the study of their ways.”
“Shape,” she said, “is not made by the relation of stone to stone, but by the relation of human being to human being.” One must experience the world to create; to do great work.
DIGEST THE INPUT
“Interpret rest not as doing nothing but as doing something but something that is different.” Here, leisure has value. In digesting what we have seen or read or done, quiet is not only welcomed by necessary. The difference, however, is in the deliberateness around it. We are not lounging and we are not checking out. We are recollecting; processing.
Movement, in relation to other things, is not so much about running away or reaching a new destination as it about the running itself or sometimes, more simply, the repositioning of oneself just out of reach, outside of view.
MOTIVATE THE SELF
The problem with creative work is that it exists at one of the last levels of human needs – after necessities like food, shelter, security, etc. There are many things that have more utility to our existence before art or beauty, and, overall, we “don’t need it.”
This means that great work may not be spurred by the demand of eager recipients. In fact, the work may fall on deaf ears.
The worker must cultivate indifference. Which ultimately means cultivating confidence and belief – sureness of self; of one’s own principles. They must respond to the lack of need for their work by developing a lack of need for an “audience or criticism,” to work “for their own delight alone.”
“Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the style voice.”
RECOGNIZE WORK WORTH PURSUING
Good, worthwhile work is:
- Done for the sake of creation, not destruction
- Done for the sake of the doing alone (“Do not dream of influencing people… think of things in themselves.”)
- An alignment in all of our energies
- Expressive but not precious
It is imperative that our work is genuine; that it has integrity – “the conviction one gives a recipient – an audience – that this is the truth.”
In doing good work, you must keep a clear vision and maintain level-headedness. “If you stop to curse you are lost… equally if you stop to laugh. Hesitate or fumble and you are done for. Think only of the jump.” Operate with clarity, conviction and confidence. Be truthful in your work… “and the rest is bound to be amazingly interesting.”
Authenticity requires “unhanding” oneself – releasing oneself from one’s own grasp – and the simultaneous turning in toward oneself.
DO IT FOR NO ONE IF NOT FOR YOURSELF
“Praise and blame alike mean nothing. No, delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of attitudes. So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.” – Virginia Woolf
To live well is to work well.
To do either well is to do it solely for yourself.