Thursday, April 09, 2009

WORKAHOLISM AS NARCISSISM

So...yesterday, the invaluable Kung Fu Monkey directed me to the Cult of Done Manifesto, and yeah, it made me laugh, but it also made me think about my own writing life. And I was feeling kinda good about my own get-it-done-ism* (see seven of the last ten posts on this blog), but then I saw something else that made me question it a bit.

Last night, PBS' "American Masters" premiered GLASS: A Portrait of Philip Glass in Twelve Parts. I only caught the second half because I was watching the season (and probable series) finale of Life, but what I did see was a pretty fascinating portrait of a guy whose workaholism seems to have cost him three marriages (he's been married four times; one wife died of liver cancer).

He's shown working pretty much constantly, described as sometimes working on three scores at once. And yeah, there are field trips out to the desert to commune with some Toltec mystic guy he knows, and afternoon tea with some rimpoche, and Buddhist "moving meditation" sessions, but it all seems to fuel more work. And it all, taken together, made me wonder whether workaholism isn't a manifestation of narcissism. "Look at me, I'm working!" I mean, can you think of a composer who's a bigger celebrity than Philip Glass? That doesn't just happen; you invite that, you strive for it. You shake every hand, make every event, hustling and figuratively - if not literally - passing out business cards.

Despite the fact that I'm writing about this subject on my blog, I don't feel like I'm particularly narcissistic, as writers go; I work (and pitch) in a kind of blind panic, in the same spirit as a panhandler who talks to every person in a subway car twice before moving on. I embrace the term "hack," taking it to mean a writer who gets the job done and moves on to the next job. I believe working for strict outwardly-imposed deadlines has been of immeasurable value to me. But I wonder if, were my writing ever to become genuinely lucrative, would I maintain the same frantic pace (which, by the way, doesn't seem all that frantic to me; I take walks - granted, they're to the post office to see what CDs have arrived - every day, and lie around on the couch in the evenings, and sometimes the afternoons, watching TV)? Or am I doing it just for the money?

Obviously, these are scattered, impressionistic thoughts that haven't fully cohered yet. And unfortunately, that's where I've gotta leave it - there's work to be done, after all.

[*not intended as an endorsement of Larry the Cable Guy]

1 comment:

pdf said...

Thanks for your input, sexy. You've given me a lot to think about.