There’s an account on TikTok that belongs to a songwriter who often communicates disappointment and disillusionment at the paltry views and streams he receives.
His songs are quite nice but that isn’t really what interests me.
I played some of his videos to my daughter who immediately felt sorry for him but pulled no punches when describing him as,
“a pound shop Snow Patrol”.
You can see he is hurting but the question I want to ask him is, “Who are you doing it for?”
Any creative pursuit will cause a lot of misery if the only way of finding affirmation is through the approval of others.
It’s a hackneyed trope that social media coaxes us into a desire to please everyone other than ourselves but it can reach the point where pleasing others is all we have left of knowing what we actually want.
Like Escher’s staircase, we chase approval to feel valuable and, once validated, we push something else out into the world in the hope of more approval never finding a way out of the eternal but ultimately destructive cycle that helps us spiral further and further away from pleasing ourselves.
I’m not immune to it, by the way.
I’ve written enough words for half a dozen books in the last decade so maybe I ought to write a novel, I thought to myself.
No matter that I don’t have any strong ideas or evidence of ability to write in long form and, anyway, who would I be doing it for?
I have, at times, questioned the resolve it has taken to write this blog every single week for nearly twelve years.
There are periods when I wonder what I’m going to write about and whether anyone would notice if I missed a week or even stopped altogether.
But it’s the wrong question because I didn’t start this for you. I did it because I wanted to. I knew I would get something valuable from it.
Whenever I lose sight of that, I’m in trouble.
As I’m writing this, the dog vying for attention with my laptop, I get an email announcing that our podcast has had 25,000 downloads.
It’s incredibly humbling and gratifying to know that other people enjoy something else we started for no reason other than thinking it might be fun but it was and remains as enjoyable and helpful for Martin and me as it is for anyone else.
The more settled and balanced I have become since my predictable and disappointingly cliche emotional crisis in mid-life the more certain I have become about why I’m doing everything I do.
To some, I’m sure it often appears selfish and insular but it is only through proper taking care of and pleasing ourselves that we have anything worthwhile to offer anyone else.
On a long ambling walk with the dogs, my son, and his girlfriend’s family through some stunning bluebell woods, the tiny fragrant flowers at their absolute best, I took my 35mm camera to get some shots of the beautiful blooms.
Gary asked me what made me get into film photography.
I thought for a moment.
At one time I may have been drawn in by the allure of the film aesthetic, posting my retro prints on Instagram in the hope of attracting admiring comments and “likes”, a hobby fuelled and sustained by doing it all for someone else.
But what I really enjoy is the anticipation of waiting for the film to be developed, the nostalgic reminders of my childhood, opening the wallet full of prints and flicking through them to find maybe one almost perfect shot amongst all the rest.
If I was hoping for such a thrill from my bluebell film I was to be somewhat disappointed because when I got home and removed the roll for developing I discovered it was black and white and therefore unlikely to show a bluebell off in its true majesty.
It turns out, when it comes to photography, I’m just a “pound shop Snow Patrol” too, but it doesn’t much matter because I know who I’m doing it for and he really doesn’t mind either way.