Above: Image, Gina Milicia
When I was in my first semester of art school, my teachers took a group of us on a camping trip. This trip was the first time I’d slept in a tent, been away from a hair dryer and central heating, so the first few days were a bit traumatic.
One of the first lessons of survival was how to build a fire.
We split into groups, and each of us had the opportunity to start a fire. Our fire mentor, Dave had taught us a step-by-step approach on the best way to light a fire. Dave had lived on the land for the last 65 years, and I have to admit he built an excellent fire, but I thought his technique was a bit slow. I had a better way.
So I headed out to gather lots of twigs, leaves and some rolled up newspaper for good measure. I skipped the logs that Dave had recommended as essential items, too heavy and too much work.
When I lit my fire, it took off instantly and within seconds I’d created a roaring fire with massive flames. It was impressive. I stood next to my fire trying to look humble, but secretly loving myself sick.
In my mind I’d just created an Academy award-winning flaming mountain; it was the kind of fire that all other flames wanted to be when they grew up.
As I basked in the glow and warmth of my beautiful flames, something alarming began to happen.
In a matter of minutes what had once been an epic and powerful fire with beautiful flames turned into a pathetic pile of burnt sticks. I panicked, nooo, stay with my fire; I frantically added more sticks and newspaper, got on my hands and knees and gave fire CPR, but it was too late, my beautiful fire had left the building.
My Academy award-winning fire was all showbiz bright and sparkly but lacking in substance.
The fire that Dave created, drawing on his years of experience, could withstand any threat because he’d built it to last using large logs to create coals. This type of fire takes time and patience, and hard work.
I built my fire with just flames. It was easy, fast and beautiful but lacking depth and impossible to sustain.
It’s easy to take the shortcuts, we all want to be successful and if that can be fast tracked then why not?
Unfortunately, anything that heats up quickly also gets cold just as fast. Remember those wildly popular Instagram gimmicky shots everyone loved a few months ago? Notice how cliche they are now or how quickly tastes have changed.
The gimmicky, tricky, hyped, “so hot right now” will get you noticed but it’s just a flame, a one hit wonder.
Chasing fads means you are always trying to keep a fire going with twigs and newspaper. Take your time searching out and nurturing a fire with substance.
Oh, and while you’re at it, surround yourself with people who will help you stoke that fire.