For as long as I can remember I've had a creative outlet. Over the years it's morphed, but it's always been there. Whether it was plugging in my bass guitar and practicing scales, or dipping my pen into a well of ink and scratching out some sketches, or fitting a spool of film into a camera and taking a photo walk.
Since making writing and thinking creatively my profession, things have shifted.
Years ago I had an informational interview with a man that started his own marketing company in Indianapolis. It was around the time when I had started wondering if the marketing or advertising field was more right for me than biological science. We talked for a long time, and though now, years later, I don't remember much of the talking points of the conversation, the one thing that stuck with me was this: working creatively during his day job had all but ended his creative endeavors outside of work.
I'll come back to that though.
In early February I was feeling that typical Seattle deep-winter depression. Dark until 8am. Dark at 4pm. Not much motivation to work out. My friend Eric suggested we try rock climbing. And I thought it sounded like it could be a good solution—it's exercise that's not like running or weight lifting. Score.
The first time I went rock climbing it was actually bouldering (shorter climbing challenges without ropes)—I wasn't allowed to rope climb in the gym without a belaying certification. And even the easy routes were scary and hard. Another friend that had climbed a lot was able to climb the routes so easily, and though she explained the technique, it eluded me.
I wanted to figure it out. The same way I've wanted to figure out the bass guitar. Photography. Art. It was the same drive. The "unlocking".
Seven months later, and I'm still hooked. My forearms are rock hard. My fingers are strong. I can feel the tendons in them, tight like cables, curling my hands. I wake up with my hands in claws after particularly tough climbing days. I've "unlocked" many of the things I sought out to, and have many many more things to learn. For those of you that climb, I'm currently working on V4 projects and 5.11a is my current highest difficultly level. I've just learned how to lead climb and have led 5.10- routes, and it's so scary to me that my legs shake.
Climbing is addicting because it's obvious incremental progress. It feeds your ego and encourages you to keep going. You start at 0, literally, for bouldering. And every level up is a huge achievement. It's progress you can feel, you can measure. You can always see the next step. My next level is a V5, and a 5.11+. I'm close. And you're always close to the next level.
I've learned a ton in the last seven months. So many lessons you learn in climbing apply to life. You won't level up if you don't try. Some moves require you to let go and accept that you might fall. Fear can bring you down, you have to learn to accept it and focus on the task. Success is fleeting. It's all about the next project.
Ok. Back to the creative stuff.
Since starting my creative job, my for-fun creative production is all but nonexistent. I was worried this would happen—that my creative energy would be "used up" at work. But it's not even that. It's also that for the first time since...ever...my hobby is not creative. It's physical. And it's throwing me off.
My questions out loud to the universe is...what is next? I can't go back to old projects—I try and they feel just that—old. Climbing is important to me now, and I'm still learning so much. But I need a for-fun creative outlet, and what that looks like isn't clear to me. Not to mention, with my climbing obsession, where do I find the time? Could the answer be as ironic as it seems? Do I just need to find...balance?