Keep On Keepin’ On – Courage To Those Who Do What They Love

I switched the theme of the blog today.  It’s part of a kick-in-the-pants I got to really develop this project, after chatting with an old friend who is working on her own blog, as well as an online sewing store (hope to share details soon!).

Anyway, it’s fast approaching midnight, and I have work tomorrow and kids who will start stirring before 7AM, but this is bringing me to the point of my post.  At times, I have felt humbled and even disheartened, because I felt like there are so many excellent design and DIY blogs out there, and it felt like I might never (and yes, never is a strong word, three months into blogging…), create anything of note.  But then I have to remind myself of how much I love doing the projects around the house, and how every single page view or comment means that I might have inspired someone, and that inspires me.

I was thrilled to recently hear and meet Anna Quindlen on book tour, where she was talking about lessons she’s learned as she has gotten older, and and one of the messages was that you don’t always have to choose the thing that you are “best” at, nor the thing that is regarded as the prestigious. If you love and are passionate about something, that will have real meaning to  you over time.  I think she is generally regarded as have stood out more as a columnist and non-fiction writer than as a novelist, and she turned that idea around.  The “right” choice isn’t always the one that will get you the widest recognition and greatest monetary rewards.  The “right” choice may be the thing that brings you personal growth and meaning.  And of course, these things are not mutually exclusive.  There may be a time for each pursuit, and the thing you love may, besides bringing you joy, grow into the thing that brings you recognition and remuneration too.  (More on that in this fascinating Harvard Business Review blog post on “Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love” by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown.)

Back to Anna Quindlen, I am a huge fan of hers and will also admit that I think, on the whole, she excelled as a columnist and, while solid, stands out less as a novelist.  On the other hand, I read her novel One True Thing, about a daughter whose mother is dying of cancer, while my own mother was dying of cancer.  Perhaps my perception was colored by this context, but I felt her writing was vivid and brought the drama of the story to life.  I will add that I think there is a section of the book near the end that didn’t feel necessary and, in my opinion, detracted somewhat from the otherwise beautiful and simple story, exquisitely told, of a family’s relationships and loss.  But the point is, the book had meaning to me.  Through this novel, along with her non-fiction writing and her speaking on the topic – she lost her own mother to cancer when she was only 19 – Anna Quindlen helped me get a handle on the grief and disorientation I felt after my mom died.  So, even if a novel isn’t perfect, if it speaks so resonantly and has so much significance to one person – and I am sure it did to many – then surely it was a worthwhile pursuit.

I’m probably reading my own meaning into Anna Quindlen’s talk (though isn’t that part of what a great talk or piece of writing should offer?), but the message I took away is that, in each thing I work on – be it motherhood, my “day job,” or this blog, I aspire to be my own best, but if there is some occupation that might get me more prestige or income (there is!), or if there are people out there that are better at any of these things than I am (there are!), that is alright, too.  On a planet of six billion people, if none of us tried to do something unless we could be the one and only top dog, where would we be?  And among those six billion people, many of them do not have the privilege of choosing their occupations or other pursuits, so perhaps those of us who do have that luxury can learn to be less afraid to embrace it.  And so, I feel inspired to keep on parenting, and working with patients, and blogging.

As for the blog, I remind myself that the process is as much the reward as the product.  I’ve been motivated to finish many projects, because I was excited to share them.  I’ve clarified my own thoughts, on topics mundane and meaningful, by writing them out.  And I’ve had encouraging feedback from many friends and a few strangers.  For now, that is enough for me, though I of course will also keep working to improve and grow the blog, too.