jusummerhayes

Loving our work

The etymology of work — just to be clear:

work (n.) Meaning "physical effort, exertion" is from c. 1200; meaning "scholarly labor" or its productions is from c. 1200; meaning "artistic labor" or its productions is from c. 1200. Meaning "labor as a measurable commodity" is from c. 1300. Meaning "embroidery, stitchery, needlepoint" is from late 14c.

That's not the whole thing but I'm pleased to see art ascribed to its definition 'cos that's how I see it — now that is.

Previously?

Well, it was graft pure and simple, and the type of graft that was going to get me somewhere. 

You remember the Summerhayes trope, don't you? All work and no play — nada, zip, nothing — makes for a very dull person. Not just that but everyone was meant to conform to my messianic, always-on standard, meaning if I could work seven days a week then so could you.

I was (though) my own worst enemy, eventually burning out or being broken by the experience.

Let's back up a tad. 

I used to love work — especially if it was tough, gritty and fraught with problems. In that way it felt like I was achieving something. I didn't stop to ask why I needed to or conspired to make it so hard but I assumed the more choppy the waters, the more likely I'd arrive at the promised land. I was especially good — bring on my competitive spirit — at outmanoeuvring and out arm-wrestling my fellow worker. For a while, it worked but I was eventually, when I applied for partnership, found out. At the time, I huffed and puffed, blaming all and sundry for my lack of selection but they, the partners, were right. I wasn't partner material. Not then. Not now. Even if I'm wrong and I had made partner, god knows what it would have done to me. 

Once I left the legal profession (August 2010), I did allow myself the freedom to dabble in a few things, including public speaking, coaching and consulting but, much like now, there was this nagging doubt that my boat was heading in the wrong direction.

Where does that leave me qua work?

Easy. I'm an artist (as are you) and that's where my effort should, no, must be applied — as if I've got a choice in the matter. I try but of course, I've also got to keep the embers burning on a full-time job, being a dad and trying to keep on top of the house stuff — DIY is definitely my Achilles heel. 

But nothing is stopping me save my self-doubt and trying to find something that doesn't turn into another faux exchange; namely, labour for money. But isn't all art like that — not the faux bit I hope? I mean, unless you get lucky, every artist I've ever studied went through huge travails, poverty, bouts of depression and a whole heap more before they turned their perspiration and inspiration into something economically sustaining. (In this regard, I always think what Charles Bukowski had to endure before he was able to leave the U.S. Postal Service and write full time.)

My problem, I suppose, is that I've not yet properly hung my hat on anything remotely creative. Oh sure, I write these pithy pieces, record a few monologues and scribble some poems but you and I both know that that doesn't amount to a row of beans. In fact, judging by the creative landscape, it looks less than nascent and arguably it's nothing more than a self-indulgent expression of my tiny but often rampant ego. 

Even allowing for the truth of that last paragraph, and I know how easy it would be to pull the plug on the whole creative edifice, something keeps me in the game. I mean, I've written something daily for a long time but better still, I've this strong sense of the unlived life biding its time knowing that the crack will break open and the creative light will direct me in my future endeavours — whatever they are. And if I can apply even 10% of my messianic work discipline to my creative output, then who knows where my creative boat may take me.

Onwards, dear readers, onwards.

"Alfie. Alfie! Alfie!! Where are you?"

Blessings, and much love, Ju


If you're able to support my work then I've put up a 'support' page on my main website. Thank you in advance; even a small amount helps me continue to write these blogs and maintain my site.

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