Lately, I have been feeling a loss of motivation. I’m not entirely sure why. All I can say is that my day job has become more demanding and stressful, with the introduction of some major new clients and that it has begun to invade my every waking (and even sleeping) thought. My day job is something I try to do well at all times and arguably, I succeed in this aim at least some of the time (hopefully most). The problem is that the role demands more than a single person can sustainably give, simply because there are so many complex problems to solve at once and these problems gravitate toward the people that have some kind of a track record in solving them. Consequently, the in tray gets rather full. Of course, that’s not to bemoan being of value and in demand, but at some point it invades everything and that, to me, can begin to be detrimental.
It made me start thinking about commerce and excellence. For some reason, commerce always has an untidy knack of constraining you into doing one thing over and over, at the expense of real diversity. This must be the case for artists, in general. In wanting to stay solvent and at least have food on the table, we often turn our backs on some of the things we do excellently, in order to do the things that are most commercially viable. The satisfaction derived from doing the commercially viable, even to the highest standard possible, is somehow diminished by the fact that other aspects of your potential output are, of commercial necessity, neglected.
You would think that the obvious answer would be to attend to those other things you feel are the best things you can give, even if it means earning less money. Unfortunately, most people’s commercial output is only marginally viable, so the loss of that small increment of income can have catastrophic consequences. The harder you work at the commercial gig, the less energy you seem to have for the pursuit of excellence in the less-commercial works, so the downward spiral begins.
Ironically, it may be that the excellent things you think you can do would, in the fullness of time, be far more commercially successful and fulfilling than the one you are currently counting as the bread-winning work, but without the ability to cross the monetary chasm, without the ability to risk all and endure a period of less financial prosperity, you may never know.
I wonder if we could organise the economy in such a way that this constraint were not so overwhelming. Let’s imagine a world in which artists and professionals, or craftsmen, farmers, whatever, could focus solely on producing their best works, whatever they were, and not worry about paying the mortgage. Think how things would be if the rewards found the purveyors of excellent things without the producer of these having to worry about where their next pay cheque was going to come from. Could such a world really exist?
I believe that one day it can. I’ve written before about under-employment. I can foresee a day when every human being could choose their daily occupation and do a wide range of excellent things, without the need to be defined as a human being, solely by one’s job title. In such a world, products wouldn’t be made to a price. Producers wouldn’t try to dupe consumers into paying more for what they are, in fact, getting, through subterfuge. Things wouldn’t break down as infuriatingly. Nothing would be cheap and nasty, yet nobody would have to worry about paying the bills. Everybody’s motivation would be to produce the best things they could, whatever those things happened to be. They wouldn’t always have to be the same things, either. You could find the motivation to achieve excellence in many ways at the same time, or serially.
This would have to be the most productive state of affairs. The aggregate output of humanity would be durable, beautiful things of quality, whether those things are artworks, products, services, or anything else. Arguably, everything made would, to some extent at least, be a work of art. So we do ourselves a great disservice by persisting with the current economic and monetary systems we all fight so hard to preserve. There is a better way, where better things and better lives result.
I wonder why we aren’t motivated to do that?