Tuesday, January 1, 2013
I think I have a resolution, which is to send more cards. Not for occasions necessarily, just to send handwritten cards in the mail. So if I ask for your address it's not because I'm a stalker, it's because I want to send you a card!
I break all my resolutions. I have never kept one. My 2011 resolution was to read the news every day. My 2012 resolution was to write down the titles of all the books I read.
I feel like it would be cheating to make a resolution for the obvious stuff, like "I will finish my dissertation this spring." That would be like if I was pregnant and my baby was due in the spring and I made my resolution "I will have a baby this spring." Still, finishing the dissertation is clearly a major project of 2013. In this connection, I have been thinking about work, while reading Valerie Boyd's Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.
Like me, Hurston was a creative writer and an academic. She adored research, which she called "poking and prying with a purpose." I'm just at the whole sad "Mule Bone" part where she has that big fight with Langston Hughes, and I'm struck by how hard she was working and how she didn't want to do anything else. It seems like the story of so many people I know: ravenously collecting material you want to use in fifty different ways, writing a play with one person, doing research for another, trying to find grants, running all over the place talking to people and writing things down, shutting yourself in your bedroom to work while a party goes on in your living room, fighting with colleagues, maybe fighting with your best friend and creative partner, revising one thing while everyone thinks you're producing a different new thing and then uh-oh, look, hospital, liver trouble.
Through all of it, what Hurston wanted to do was work. And that describes me, and a lot of people I know. We are maybe kind of workaholics? That's such a negative word, and it misses out on so much, but it's also pretty descriptive. We take vacations because it's the done thing, and perhaps because we suspect we'll collapse otherwise. Most of the time we collapse on vacation. We complain that we have too much to do. In 1930 Hurston wrote: "The weariness is beginning to break through my subconsciousness and call itself to my attention." The answer? More work! "To combat her fatigue," writes Boyd, "Hurston soon embarked on a working sabbatical..."
This is not a "work ethic." It doesn't seem like obsession, either. Can you be obsessed with ten things at once?
From Hurston's autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road: "I don't know any more about the future than you do. I hope that it will be full of work, because I have come to know by experience that work is the nearest thing to happiness that I can find. No matter what else I have among the things that humans want, I go to pieces in a short while if I do not work. What all my work shall be, I do not know that either, every hour being a stranger to you until you live it."
Resolutions: work harder and send more cards.
Posted by Sofia at 8:07 PM