Wednesday May 25, 2005
I wonder why they call it ‘noodling’? You know, as applied to a period of time you spend turning from task to task, project to project, doing lots of things but never finishing anything? It’s a nice word. ‘Pottering’ would do as well, I suppose. I use both of them as defence against the charge that I seldom actually finish anything I start.
I have a lot of those. Defences, I mean. Like saying ‘yes, but not now’. Or ‘yes, one day, perhaps’. I hand them out to other people and, I confess, to myself. Not sure about that ‘confess’, but let it pass.
Like my defence, when my back is against the wall, against the inward urge or external demand that I write a new book, or finish an old one. ‘What do you think this is?’ I am prone to ask, defensively. ‘Just count the words I’ve written here.’ Referring to the journal, of course. Not to mention the poems, paintings and photographs.
Once, a good long while back, having reached the end of yet another failed attempt to finish a book, I defended myself to myself, saying that there was nothing wrong with making the keeping of a journal and an eternally growing heap of poems a life-work. The argument suits me, of course. It never finishes, keeping a journal, you see, not until the day arrives when you can’t pick up the pen or apply fingers to keyboard. At that point you either destroy the whole thing, probably the best, most merciful course of action, or tie it up in ribbon, lodge it in a drawer, and leave it to someone else to sort out in the future. Someone with a bit more determination and a lot more sense of the desirability of finished work, of product.
It’s all about product, you see. There’s an all-pervasive judgemental demand nowadays, requiring product as a measure of success. A bound book or a finished and framed painting. Something tangible, which can be sold, and result in visible figures on the balance sheet. The adherents of this approach, and that’s almost everyone, believe that you can’t succeed, or be judged a success, unless your efforts lead to a product, and that product to an income.
Mayhap. Been there, done that, and I’m still living on the income. In my third age I tend to an opposing view, thinking that the labour is reward enough for me. Product is for industrialists, so far as I’m concerned, and industry is something from which I am, happily, retired.