“It may seem strange to say so, since we live at a time of cultural abundance and flowering amateurism, when the tools of creativity seem to be available to anyone with a laptop. But the elevation of the amateur over the professional trivializes artistic accomplishment and helps to undermine the already precarious living standards that artists have been able to enjoy.
“Making a living is nothing,” the novelist and critic Elizabeth Hardwick wrote in an essay titled “Grub Street: New York,” first published more than 50 years ago in the inaugural issue of The New York Review of Books. “The great difficulty is making a point, making a difference — with words.” She might just as well have said with images, sounds or the movement of bodies; words just happened to be her chosen medium. And her words in this case still stand as a concise, slightly scolding credo for the creative class. Nobody cares how you pay your rent. Your job is to show us something we didn’t know we needed to see.”
Or something I, the artist, didn’t know I needed to see, and was willing to bring you along with me to pause and collectively say, “Huh. Look at that.”
Perhaps a little more subtle “huh.” On some days.
Today I managed to get up according to one of my prior day-rhythms. At my becoming-usual 5:30am rousing, I thought about blog ideas (also usual), but also considered how morning writing works better for me than evening writing… and if I was writing in the morning this Tuesday, it needed to be right after breakfast. Because the rest of the day’s spoken for.
That thought, at least, survived the half-dreaming that characterizes 5:30am rousing. (Note: My Sweetie’s alarm goes off at 5:45am. My alarm goes off at 6. Somehow this rousing is just enough to kick me back into an hour and a half of sleep, lulled by National Public Radio news reports into dreams of typewriter repair and worn wooden school floors.)
In this what? near month? of not-writing, I again confronted that, when around an absence of schedule in others, I gravitate toward hanging out in their flow rather than asserting mine with myself. This does not bode well for Retirement-Land.
On the other hand, I’ve been enjoying hanging out. And if it wasn’t for this morning’s set intention, and B’s well-known matuinal habits, I would be hanging out right now. But I’m pretty sure I’ll leave for my Bible study as she wakes up.
After not-writing for this long stretch, I’m feeling pretty amateur (lover-ly) and not very professional (diligent). What I am appreciating in this moment is that I’ve acquired enough past diligence and history that I don’t doubt that I am still in the artist business, the business of making things that we don’t know we need to see
until we see them.
Even if this particular object isn’t one of those. The others will come.