Musings: The Pursuit of Art versus Goals

Musings: The Pursuit of Art versus Goals

You are reading a Stream of Consciousness (aka SOC) blog entry. These are written from a personal point of view when I am right in the moment of figuring something out. People unfamiliar with my writing over the years may find it hard to follow. All are welcome to read, but keep in mind that these entries are raw and not representative of how I may actually feel/think about a given topic.

Although the plan is to shut down the blog as it currently exists, I think I will try an experiment this week with some DAILY BLOGGING of my thoughts to see if it helps me recover from my low productivity state. I’ll post these under the stream of consciousness category, where the most rambling of my rambles go. I stopped writing them because I thought they were not adding value to the feed for a general audience, but I have a theory that by suppressing my sharing instinct, I have somehow killed my own motivation to work. While I tend to phrase my work motivation in terms of projects, tasks, and chores, I think I am really facing writer’s block or an artist’s rut rather than a “production problem”.

What is “art” in my personal context?

My work is driven by my artistic sensibilities, which include novelty, quality, and adding positivity to the world as baseline ingredients. Conversely, my work is NOT driven by maximizing profit, beating the competition, or growing a market/audience as quickly as possible. And yet, I need profit, competitiveness, and market/audience to pursue my artistic sensibilities, as this is how I can afford to do them. It is the artist’s conundrum.

I can see that the past several years of my goals as an attempt to “flip the priorities” so profit, competitiveness, and market/audience are my main focus. I have tried to think more like a business person, thinking less about what is interesting and what is efficient. While I’ve achieved a modicum of success in this regard, I am feeling creatively malnourished.

I’m not sure what the solution to this quandary is, but I think that it is part of the essential question I have been trying to answer for a long time. Let me try to put the question into words…

  • The question is not “What should I do with my life” or “What is the best way to have a good balanced life”, but perhaps more like, “What is my art? And how can I produce it?”
  • If my “art” is the creation of “novel, quality, positivity-adding works”, what does that really entail? I may already be doing them, or I am fighting the urge to pursue them because I feel I “should” be doing something else.
  • In hindsight, my life has been the pursuit, collection, and categorization of those novel, qualitatively-excellent, positive experiences. This is what inspires my own artistic impulse, which erupt as blog posts and occasionally as tangible products.
  • There’s a mismatch between what I “need to do” to live as a responsible member of the workforce and my local community, and what feeds my artistic impulse.
  • Rather than fight the artistic impulse, I might have a better time working with it and making that the basis of my work identity rather classifying it as “the other thing I do” existing in a separate world.

TAKEAWAY THOUGHT: If I can reorient my daily work around “pursuit of the art” rather than “pursuit of my goals and fulfillment of my responsibilities”, maybe that will work better. The fatigue I have been feeling seems to be related to having so many goals and responsibilities to fulfill.

I’ll try to put this into practice for the rest of the day.


  1. Nicole 8 years ago

    Maybe your goals need to be more art-related and less tied to what you feel should be doing?

    • Author
      Dave Seah 8 years ago

      Yes, that’s what I’m leaning toward. However, separating the “art” from the “should” is difficult!

      There’s a couple ways to look at “should” though, so to clarify let me list the ways I think of the word:

      • “Should” as something SOMEONE ELSE is telling you to do for “reasons”. I already reject this.
      • “Should” as something that I am TELLING MYSELF to do for “reasons”. The reasons are related to survival or are the incurred cost of pursuing the art.

      I guess I am saying that I’d like to pursue the art as much as possible, but I still need to pay for it somehow. That is my “should” reasoning. I’d like the activity that goes for paying for it to also be some kind of art, or at least be able to frame it in my head that way.

  2. Sandra Lang 8 years ago

    Dave, I have been reading your blog for several years and always come away from it with food for thought or a challenge to change my own attitude or way of working. I appreciate your struggles and am inspired by your willingness to share your thought process. I discovered you through your Compact Calendar, purchased your Emergent Task products and learned from the other resources you have introduced in your quest for productivity. Whether you choose to continue the blog or not, thank you for the things I have discovered reading it.

    Sandi Lang Librarian

    • Author
      Dave Seah 8 years ago

      Hi Sandy! Thanks so much! I’m glad that you found something interesting or thought provoking in my words and work.