I chose to preview the blog with this song by the Who, because I think Pete Townshend is an artist who’s embraces these … Work – Play – Authenticity
It’s work. We’ve all heard at one point someone refer to work as “another four letter word”. Good.
Surprise. Work is good. Work is good for the soul. It’s the vehicle of expression of our essence. I think there’s a general negative attitude about the word in itself – “Work”. I imagine the chain gang in “Cool Hand Luke”. And do you remember Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in “The Shining”?
The scene: Wendy discovers what Jack had been toiling over – pages and pages inscribed with a single phrase written into paragraphs and dialogue of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” This is the product of 4 to 5 months of work. He comes upon her discovery, and she is the one freaked for being found out. Brilliant irony. He moves towards her with that Nicholsonesque menace (the eyes, the grin, the rage) and she backs away sobbing and weakly wielding a bat between them. He tears into her with his guilt, “Have you ever thought about a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers… Does it matter to you at all the owner have placed their complete confidence and trust in me?… do you have slightest idea of what the moral and ethical principle is, do you? Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future if I failed to live up to my responsibility?”
Whoa Jack. You’re taking all this too seriously. You’re identifying yourself a little too deeply with the man.
Fast backward to yesterday. Twilight. I am sitting at an outdoor cafe finishing the last few chapters of a book. I am enjoying the weather, the quiet idle of the day and watching people between the lines. A man in a t-shirt emblazoned, “Eat, Sleep, Play”. I didn’t pay much attention to it till this morning after I spoke with a fellow writer. I called to check up on him, because he missed class yesterday which was unusual. I wanted to find out if he was okay. And he wasn’t and I heard why. He was agonizing about not writing for two weeks. He’s feeling the pressure of not having finished the memoir, and is disappointed that he doesn’t have a product when we are so close to the end of our workshop. I felt his anxiety, but I wasn’t prepared to indulge in a conversation that seemed inane of self-mutiliation. That wasn’t going to help this person get past the self pity and moving on with the work at hand.
I told him it’s okay to hit some bumps, but work through it. Stop beating yourself up over the past. Writing is visceral and cathartic and writers have to be good to themselves and realize when they need to stop channeling for a little while, or at least be aware when they’re not well (spiritually, physically and mentally) for the job at hand. Do what’s necessary to be well again. Plus everything he’s doing outside of writing will also feed his writing. Relax.
If we can change our belief that the work is play then maybe there wouldn’t be so much agonizing over the result and looking for a product. Play is not about product. Play is about being in presence of the moment. Is what I’m doing fun, inventive, new, authentic? Play is many things and right now the strongest association I have with play is authenticity. I ask myself for what purpose am I creating this. If it’s anything near close to the truth – the essence of me – it’s fun and it becomes play. But ‘working for man’ is not my essence. I do work for the man 5 days a week, and thank goodness I work at a place where the people are real. They have a passion for what they are doing and it shows in how they work and the byproduct of the process. I dream for the moment to see my play come alive on stage, but overall I am joyful and thankful when I’m writing, because my spirit demands it.
I leave you with thoughtful words from Roy Orbison’s song who’s gotta a plan to stop working for the man.
Hey, now, you better listen to me everyone of you
We got a lotta, lotta, lotta, lotta work to do
Forget about your women and that water can
Today were working for the man
Well, pick up your feet, we’ve got a deadline to meet
I’m gonna see you make it on time
Oh, don’t relax, I want elbows and backs
I wanna see everybody from behind
Cause your working for the man, a’working for the man
You gotta make him a hand when you’re working for the man
Oh, well, I’m picking em up and I’m laying em down
I believe he’s gonna work me into the ground
I pull to the left, I heave to the right
I oughta kill him but it wouldn’t be right
Cause Im working for the man, working for the man
Gotta make him a hand, a’working for the man
Well, the boss man’s daughter sneaks me water
Everytime her daddy’s down the line
She says, meet me tonight, love a’me right
And everything is gonna be fine
So I slave all day without much pay
Cause I’m just abiding my time
Cause the company and the daughter you see
Their both gonna be all mine
Yeah, I’m gonna be the man, I’m gonna be the man
Gotta make him a hand if I’m gonna be the man
Working for the man, a’working for the man
Gotta make him a hand a’working for the man