Friday, December 14, 2012

How Good Work can be Wrong but Right Work is always Joy

I live with Marcy. She will roll her eyes a lot at what I am about to write but too bad. I speak truth.

I have taught a lot of writing, been around a lot of artists, majored in theatre so am well acquainted with those freaks (including myself there), and just generally listened to the whining of approximately 2 billion people all with the same complaint and it goes like this: "I know there is a book/painting/film/etc. inside of me but I just can't seem to get it out..."

Marcy is not one of these types of...constipated people.

She is the opposite.  ((um))

Really.  She is so prolific in her creativity that her issue is the opposite -- how to find enough time and space to let it rip.

She gets an idea for a line of paintings called Nerds and Cats (or Baku, nightmare eaters) and spills out the table-full above in just a few weeks.

She gets an idea for a novel (or three), goes on a writing retreat, and gets most of the first draft finished. She can write for six hours straight as long as you provide her with the occasional snack and drink.  She sits, reads previous words, and just GOES.

There is no pulling of the hair, gnashing of the teach, wailing "it's so harddddddddd..."

No drama. Just work. Great work.

For many, many years, I thought this was just the way Marcy is and that most artists/creators are not like her.  I thought that most of them were like me -- with all the drama and angst. With all the "oh my god, I am totally awesome because I got 2 pages out this week...*"

(*Do not be fooled. I did not think I was actually awesome -- just the idea that I got ANYTHING done at all felt pretty damn awesome.)

I had bought into the idea (and most of us buy into this) that ART IS HARD.

Imagine my surprise...

For all of our time together (and before that), I thought my love of literature and my general skill with words simply meant that I was destined to be a novelist (not a non-fiction is not art! <-- this is not true but it was what was in my head) or a poet (ahh...the whip of "starving equals righteous high art").

Poetry falls out of me.  If I am listening to the inner poet, that is, and that listening takes a ton of work and time that I was not always willing to give.

And for two years, I worked on and completed 500 pages of a novel.  (Hello! This is more like two novels. I am nothing if not...explain-y. Which is a technical term.)

Every page of those 500 pages pained me.  There was not an ounce of joy.


Imagine my surprise...

A couple of weeks ago, I was working with a group of my more advanced students in a different way than student/teacher.

These are women I have asked to go on a Journey into Choreography with me.  We'd been working together for many months, circling our way around the act of creation like vultures, who aren't sure that the road kill far below them isn't a tire.

We were not committing to the dive, otherwise.

I had tons of ideas. Notes scribbled. Pieces of music I was sure were ripe for making something.

I had finally decided during our previous meeting to start really working on one particular piece of music. I work in a very collaborative way, creating movement explorations that I believe will lead to something concrete eventually.  At least I know that much about my process.

Well...the last time we met, it started to really happen. The piece had breath and bones. Structure. I finally could see it and it was starting to grow.

Part way through this, I had this giant realization: I AM NOW A WORKING CHOREOGRAPHER DOING MY THING.

And guess what!?


There is nothing but JOY in this right work.


I am a good writer.  Writing is good work.  But it is not my RIGHT WORK and so there is no joy for me in. There is no drowning in the sweet flow of possibility.

There is just struggle.

But this dance, this making choreography...THIS is my right work and so even though it is not easy and even though there is no guarantee that it will mean anything to anyone else...even though it might go no further...for the first time in my life, PRODUCT truly does not matter.  PROCESS is all there is and it is so very fulfilling.

That's how you know, people: the work itself is joy and there is no attachment whatsoever to results. (Please do not go all buddhist on me or I might scream. The word attachment right there is just a word; it's not a philosophical or religious treatise waiting to be unpacked.)

This does not mean you don't work hard.  Working hard just means more freaking joy.

But it means the work does not feel like painful, dragging yourself through mud filled with spikes, whining to anyone who will listen DRUDGERY.

It means that you spend more time DOING than thinking about the "when this is done..."

This right work, this joy of this right work -- this is who you are and who you were born to be.

"Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."  --Pierre Teilhard de Chardin