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Devotion v Dedication: The Romantic Notion of Hard Work

We are back with some comparison and nuance blogs this month. They are some of my favourites because they let us play with the narratives we have surrounding these concepts in our creative practices and can change the way we use and regard them in our creative life. As always, the disclaimer remains: this is my interpretation and thought on the use of these words, the general understanding of them as it relates to creativity and is not a direct dictionary quotation. With that out of the way, let us begin!

These two ideas of devotion and dedication are, on the surface, one and the same. On the surface level to be devoted or dedicated is to give everything, to focus on a particular cause or work. However, as we dig deeper and begin to tease out the nuance of these words and concepts, we can begin to see a different understanding emerge. In my view, both do denote giving to, in this context creativity, everything, your all, your focus and attention. But one is more romanticized than the other, and has distinctly divine connotations attached to it. On the flip side, its counterpart is focused on duty and diligence - a grounding process of internal motivation. Choosing to believe you are one or the other when it comes to creativity can be a major perspective shift, and change the way you relate to your creative practice.

The Divinity of Devotion

The notion of devotion is one of divine providence. We often express our belief in the divine, however you view it, as devotion. Mothers are devoted to their children, nuns to their vocation, and spouses to one another. When we partake in a daily devotional there is a spiritual connotation, a belief that we are reaffirming our faith beliefs as we devote ourselves to the study of living life in a particular way, to a particular standard. Devotion also requires one to be focused on the work of being in tune with the practice to which you are choosing to apply yourself. It takes effort to devote your life to something. To be devoted is to give all that you are to a way of life.

As creatives we are devoted to our craft. This is a very romantic view to take because it implies a spiritual connection or divine essence within the practice itself that requires our complete attention and effort. To be devoted to your creativity is to live a life in that creative practice. To make creativity your life’s work and ambition, and to practice that craft or that calling each and every day with intention. The thread of hard work and effort runs through it, but it sounds more like a sacred undertaking that is in itself, a rewarding process that breeds wisdom and fortitude in the face of life’s hardships and uncertainty.

However, the other side of devotion is obsession and the belief that you can only create when the muse strikes or you are called to do so instead of making it happen in the consistency of your own practice.

Diligent Dedication

Dedication is another beast entirely, one that is grounded in the doing of the hard work. To be dedicated is to be relentless in your drive to follow through. Being dedicated is an act of diligent doing; of sitting down and applying yourself to a task. We are dedicated to our professions, to our families, to our hobbies. There is a firmness to dedication. When we dedicate a work to someone it is an act of recognition, thanks and giving. It is real, it is firm, and it is the result of effort. Dedication requires diligence, because it is a persistent practice. Dedication requires us to show up, to be present, to be realistic and pragmatic. In giving our all, we show grit and persistence. To be dedicated is to reach the end.

As creatives we are dedicated to our pieces, our projects, our work. We dedicate our time, effort, and spaces to our creative pursuits in order to accomplish a goal on our creative journey. To do this we must be diligent and consistent. We need to dedicate ourselves and our resources to our creativity. We like to stay on top of things, to know where we are, and where we still need to go. Creative practices are a lesson in dedication. Consistency is a sign of dedication - the more consistent we are in our practice, the more we show up and sit in the chair or do the thing, the more it gets done. Being dedicated to your creativity is the act of doing.

The flip side of this attribute is to venture into burnout territory, to chase perfectionism, and to become productivity driven instead of enjoyment and fulfilment driven.

Where Do We Stand?

The real difference I see emerging from this analysis is the idea that devotion is a sacred practice and dedication is a doing practice.

If you struggle with getting the bum in the chair, if you struggle with the just doing, then you may benefit from taking the more romantic view of devotion to your creativity as a way to practice sacred time that allows you to show up in a different way.

If you struggle with completing projects, if you struggle to do because you are waiting for divine inspiration to strike or the ritual burning of candles to begin, it may be more beneficial to take a more practical and tactical approach by dedicating specific time and resources to an area of your creative practice.

I love the idea of romanticizing the work part, because without that little bit of magic, of believing you are capable of that kind of magic, the work part becomes overwhelming in its mundanity and difficulty. At the same time, if you do not allow for grounding of work to take place in your creative practice it becomes more a dream than a reality.

The beauty of this discussion is that there is place for both, place for all, and space for every season to pass.

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