Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation on the subject of duration with a friend, Loic, in Saigon. We spoke of work, specifically art work, and the rush to get it done. And we spoke of madness. Somehow the conversation turned to Foucault, who wrote that in the past mad people had a role in society. Secretly, I thought of Artaud, though today Yayoi Kusama. Anyhow, madness is no longer valued, simply because in a largely capitalist world, mad people, who are largely idle, are not productive. Idle people are not the best producers. We recalled all the great people throughout history, who have made intellectual, scientific and cultural breakthroughs and have also been labled as mad. My post several days ago spoke of savants. People with extraordinary ability and often, disability. I think we need a return to idleness and to madness.
I type below a passage from John Steinbeck's "Journey of a Novel", a masterful work in its own right though at the time of its writing served only as a writing device: a fictional conversation with his editor during the writing of East of Eden. In his notebook, he wrote his daily letters and conversations to his editor (which, of course, the editor never saw) detailing his concerns, family, writing process, health, love, and blocks. The journal went on the left side, the novel on the left page. The spread revealed non-fiction and fiction together.
February 16, Friday
Just as it always does – the work started without warning. It is always that way. I must sit a certain length of time before it happens. Yesterday it began to come and I think the form is set now. I know it is for the alternate chapters. I only hope I can do as well with the other parts of the alternate. Now I have sat a week. It is Friday and I have sweated out one page and a half. If I did not know this process so well, I would consider it a week of waste. But I know better than that now and I am content. I do not think I have wasted this week. In fact I feel a great gain. There is nothing frantic about the book at all.
It takes experience to recognize the value of duration and of idleness. I wrote to my friend Jun yesterday that I wanted to travel less this year and instead concentrate on my work. I am more convinced as days go by. I need the time to let things distill, cure, ripen inside of me. Today, despite feeling the symptoms of an early onset of the flu which often happens to me during the transition of dry to rainy season, I am feeling quite positive and content. If I wanted to be in a rat race, I would have never left America.
I read a great entry on the blog of artist Matthew Bates on his decision to become a fine artist. My own trajectory was similar in someways (with exception that my family was not one of artists).
Read the his entry: Life Decisions: Becoming a Fine Artist
Posted by on March 8, 2006 10:25 PM | Permalink