Playing to Play

I am wrought with paranoia
For I have brought myself before you
Nakedly awaiting
You’re o.k.
-k.d. lang

I’ve had this mug for probably 30 years.  Everyone who knows me well would probably say – yep that’s Jeri.  I am a very competitive soul.   I’ve always had a “Play to Win” mentality.  I’m still pissed that I tied for Valedictorian of my high school class – never mind that we both had a perfect 4.0 GPA.  Today when I speed walk the indoor track at the Jewish Community Center, my ‘wa’ is disturbed whenever someone passes me.  I don’t even know those folks, but I immediately start going faster, planning at what turn I might overtake them.  It takes supreme force of will to remember I am NOT in a race. There is no prize at the end of my hour. I am just walking for me. This is supposed to be RELAXING!

If you are a super-competitive person, becoming a parent can be a nightmare.  If you aren’t VERY careful, your children can become an extension of you, and as such, become the playing piece in the game.  You want to win through them, and if you can just move the piece around in the “right” ways, you’ll hit the jackpot.  But this can be a problem if you have a strong-willed child.  “WHAT? You don’t want to make an A?  You don’t want that school project to be hands-down, over- the- top, best in show?  You don’t want to be first string pitcher?”  This is a very exhausting experience for both sides; it reminds me of the poster “Bang head here.”

While my ultra-competitiveness has yielded some amount of fruit in my academic and professional lives, in creative endeavors, it may just be the death-knell to success.  Ironically enough, the moment you begin to worry about your writing or your art or your photographs being “good enough”, things start to go south.  When I start to worry about how my product will be judged – (Is the composition just right?  Should I add a fancy filter?  What else cool can I do with it in Photoshop to ‘wow them?)-  the quality of my product goes downhill.  Julia Cameron describes this as the point in the creative process where the ego wakes up.  She calls this point “The Wall.”  It’s the point at which we are no longer writing or shooting just for the sake of it.  We are “no longer happy just to splash in the pool, suddenly we think about those other people in the pool with us, whether they are faster, better, stronger, showier.  In short, we begin to compete, not just create.”  

And from an artistic perspective, real crap can come out of that!  My Photoshop catalog is witness to this.  I can see how I have added multiple versions with all sorts of fancy stuff thrown in, when one of the first simple versions beneath them is the best.  I can pinpoint when my ego “woke up” mid-way through the editing.  My creative joy has morphed into paranoia about whether naked me – and my art – will be judged “good enough”.

When I value the process more than the output/product, my ‘product’ is more successful – whether that product is my daily walk or my kids or my art.

And finally, I like the idea of my ego being asleep.  It can seriously use the rest.

2 thoughts on “Playing to Play

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