Today I spent a couple of hours doing edits on a book manuscript of a young woman’s search for…for lots of things but not things–things more in the sense of how Mbot says it; not yet able to form the voiceless dental fricative, his “things” come out “sings.”
She is looking for sings–things that will sing within her. She is an artist and a searcher and she wants to give. But what she’s got to give–a quirky, hilarious, bittersweet take on the world, a need to meditate, to reflect–is a tough sell in a society that more values the ability to answer a phone or write code or invent a new drug or sell something or enforce the rules of a bureaucracy. Artists and meditators need apply only if they can appeal to a large enough cash platform or look smashing in their yoga pants. There are of course many exceptions, but not enough. She is teetering at the tip of a population pyramid, like the one the USDA came up with, no doubt in close cooperation with the Grains Council of America. She is Fats, Oils, and Sweets, all rolled into one. I’ll have me some of that.
I am lucky, because I can get me some of that, I get paid for it, and I get to stick my big fat opinions into the text during the creative process. I’ve always been a sucker for process. I’d rather have the line-drawn studies for a painting on my wall than the finished product; my favorite part of The Guru’s ship model-building is when the hull planks haven’t yet been set in place over the curving poetry of ribs. I love seeing how artists’ work develops over years and decades. In fact, I am so enamored of process that it somewhat retards my ability to complete my own sings. And you only have a chance of getting paid for sings–the payment, society’s validation of your worth–when you turn them into things.
Engaging in the process of the work of another –when I really believe in that person’s work–is exhilarating, partly because I get to be part of their process, but also because it makes it suddenly easy to think about my own work in a different way, in a distanced, critical mode. There is a lover vs. working girl metaphor I could use here, but my parents are reading this, so I’ll restrain myself. And I’ve already indulged in enough metaphors for one post.
Time for more dessert.
What are your favorite sings?