The second lap of the race was killing me. Every fiber of my being was on fire, oxygen wouldn’t come fast enough, and I was easily distracted by the crowd. But there it was, sitting on the ground and demanding that I redouble my efforts. I put one foot in front of the other, straining to reach the starting line one more time.
tl;dr – Sometimes it helps to draw a line so you can see how far you’ve come.
I never planned to be a web developer. Back in 1999, my reason for trying to output .HTM files from Microsoft Word was simple: I knew that my (brilliant) film projects would remain hidden if I didn’t have a place to put them. It was that desire that fueled me to learn HTML, CSS, and all the things to follow. They were fun at first and became the way I make a living today, but what I really wanted to do was make movies.
By the early 2000s I was enrolled in audio/video courses, making money as a video editor, computer graphics artist, and live audio engineer. Everything was going well; I was hitting my stride, pounding out the steps on another section of track.
Then…I stumbled coming around one of the turns, losing my footing and tumbling into the path of several fellow runners. It took a lot of precious time and effort to right my course, and by then I was falling behind, my lack of experience forcing me to admit that I needed to change pace. I finished the lap with a staggered rhythm and put my head down for a short sprint to catch up with the leaders.
I have a (not so) secret mission to create a series of interactive fictional stories. It’s part of my end-game, something that plays into the greater pieces of what I feel called to do. I have this dream of something between a video game, film cinematics, and an audiobook; it would pull you in and let you learn about the story at your own pace. You’d like it.
I have no idea whether or not I’ll ever craft this multimedia experience. What I do know is that I will never get there if I do nothing. Were the next years of my life to be spent in fruitless labor or mindless entertainment, I might as well stop running. This will take multiple disciplines and a lot of hard work, because some of those skills are going to take a long time to cultivate.
Some people like to talk about “resistance” in the creative process. It’s almost as though they think there’s some strange layer of tension between what we do with each day’s efforts and the direct output potential of twenty-four hours. But all of us have the same time to work with, nobody gets an extra second. Since we don’t know when it will be our time to leave this life, it seems to me that every day demands our full attention so we can look back and be pleased with how we spent them.
“Your Tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker!” — The Empire Strikes Back
The distance between here and my goals…well, it doesn’t really matter. I know it’s something plausible – I’d be silly to think that I could be a world-class sumo wrestler – so all that matters now is how to get from here to there. What should I be doing with my down-time? How should I spend any extra income I earn? Who can I learn from around me?
This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Just like any long-range goal, it takes practice, patience, planning, patience, persistence, and a whole more patience.
I have no idea how I’m going to create these stories, but I do know that having web, video, 3D, audio, and other related skillsets are all part of the larger picture. I still have to pay bills in the meantime, though, so I’m going to hone what I can in small steps, focus on technique instead of tools, and do my best to learn from every single thing my feet touch along the way.
A good friend of mine once said:
“You know, I have a PHD, but I got that degree with Papers Handed in Daily, not some secret formula.”
I love this. It’s the long, hard road, the one that has an unknown number of rocks and robbers along the way. It’s the one less traveled because there isn’t a short-term reward around every bend. It’s the path of most resistance, because you only get glimpses of the end goal. Those glimpses are like mirages for a tired traveler, something you carry with you in the long stretches of desert landscape. They keep us going, reminding us that we are in a marathon, forcing us to remember all the reasons why we do what we do.
As I round another curve, the tunnel vision kicks in, threatening to halt my progress. Yet with this limited vision I am surprised to see that I am the only one running; the success of others are not distractions, they are inspirations. Right now, I’m a web developer. One day, I’ll move on to the next discipline. Along the way I plan to enjoy the journey, desperately trying to keep my eyes on that elusive finish line. I know it will be worth the wait.