Doing things versus getting them done.

As I brushed my teeth after breakfast a few moments ago it occurred to me how often I do things just to get them done, without any thought as to why I’m doing them. I know that brushing my teeth, followed by mouthwash, I’m taking care of my oral hygiene. However, when I go to do it I’m only doing so in order to follow my morning routine. A long time ago I accepted the fact that I have to brush so I gave it no more thought as I was doing it.

That all makes sense but it brought to mind the question: how often do I do things just to get them done, not giving any thought as to why I’m doing them? Moreover, what about enjoyable activities, such as reading a book or watching a movie? How often do I engage in such activities simply because they’re on my “to-do” list without any intent on actually enjoying them? That isn’t to deny that sometimes I do end up enjoying myself. But I have to sometimes wonder about my own motivation.

I think a large difference comes from doing things versus experiencing them. For example, by “doing things” I’m including activities like brushing my teeth, taking out the trash, cleaning dishes and so on. By “experiencing them” I’m including reading a book, watching a movie, listening to music, playing video games—in other words, engaging in arts and entertainment. With the former category I’m carrying things out while with the latter I’m taking them in.

It isn’t necessary to think about the fact that I’m making my dishes and silverware sanitary for me to use while I’m cleaning them. At some point in my life I accept that was why it’s necessary to do after using them. Since them I simply carry out the task. It isn’t something I find particularly enjoyable or harrowing. I simply do it in order to get it done.

When watching a movie, however, I should enjoy myself if I find it entertaining and/or enlightening. However, I convinced myself that I had a backlog of movies that I should have seen by now. In the past few months I’ve been borrowing titles from that list from the library. I would rent about five out at a time and then spend a good amount of time on the weekends watching through those movies. Maybe that isn’t the worst way to spend my time but I ended up forcing myself to watch movies that I wasn’t in the mood for just so I could “get through” them. I don’t want to think that colored my perception of a few of them but I have to wonder if it might be the case.

The idea of “getting through” something rather than enjoying it applies to books as well. Right now I’m reading the first of a trilogy of Star Trek books that I got for the holidays. Despite the fact that I can tell it’s not the best writing out there I’m still enjoying it. However, books that are more “meaningful” and “intellectual” stack up in a pile in my living room. When I get to one of those, I read it because I feel I have to. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading a book in its entirety in one sitting, but how often am I rushing them without taking the time to enjoy the experience of reading? This is, of course, barring the fact that I read quickly to start with. Even aside from that I should still enjoy the experience of what I’m reading versus making my way to the last page.

The biggest concern I have about this issue is when it comes to creating art. Obviously I enjoy writing. I feel the need to write. Yet when I’m working on a large project like the novel I’ve been writing, I often get into the mindset that I want to finish what I’m doing rather than do it. My mood during a particular writing session certainly affects that. Still, I find myself adopting that attitude more often than not.

Then there comes forms of expression that involves different tasks, some of which I enjoy more than others. The RPM Challenge is happening this year after all. I signed up as Shadows of Immurement again, which means I’m doing everything myself. I find writing and recording music highly enjoyable. However, I dread the prospect of production this time. I’m using much better equipment than I have in the past. At the same time, I know that I can’t make it sound too perfect. I don’t like when Shadows of Immurement sound too polished. I have to find the right balance when I’m fiddling around with the virtual knobs in the recording software. I have little knowledge about what I’m doing, and I fear that I won’t acquire enough during the course of the Challenge. Fortunately, making an album sound great isn’t a requirement in this project. I just want it to for my own needs.

Finally, where does blogging belong in this topic? Not to take an easy out, but I think I’ll just let my regular readers figure that one out.


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