Friday, December 20, 2013

The Commitment

The Adventure, so far as I know, has never been in the applause.

This is the second half of the previous post.

It is a pity that there's no path towards making many understand the difference between fun and satisfaction. That is because 'fun' has always been something easy to obtain. I am here where I sit; there are others but ten or twelve feet from me. We all wait for Christmas, our thoughts upon the holiday, upon the gifts we're giving and the meals with family we haven't seen for too long. There is anxiousness here, and to have fun, I merely have to walk over, greet these people, remark on the holiday, and in a few moments we'll be smiling, remarking about the days ahead, making a few quips and a few chuckles all around. I'll walk down a block or two to one of my favorite haunts and be greeted warmly, make a joke about the harsh weather, make a promise that I won't forget them while I'm gone on holidays, and leave them smiling too. Later, I might lay by the fire with my partner Tamara, or we might go out and laugh, shout, watch some musicians play, tease the server and enjoy the food. Fun is everywhere, it is easy, all it really requires is a willingness to share a kind word and meet the sort of people you like in a place you like.

The book, on the other hand, is misery.

I know that most think of work as a place where they go to sit and do repetitive work, and be paid. Sometimes the work isn't repetitive, but it's exhausting and perhaps dangerous, and it is good to set it down at the end of the day even if one's mind isn't pulp with boredom. If I may, I'd like to refer to this sort of work as labor. I'm paid for it, I pass the time doing it, it's occasionally stressful ... but it uses my mind and there are problems to be solved and the days are at least straightforward. For the most part, my labor is cut out for me, and I know what I am meant to do.

The 'work' I speak of is nothing like labor.

To begin with, I am not paid for it. It is done alone, and there is no one with which to discuss the issues - certainly no one who comprehends them. The problems that arise don't look like problems; for all I know, every word is a problem, or none of them are. Part of the process is to DECIDE that something is a problem, even if everyone else around is saying it isn't one. My mind is made pulp, but not with boredom - with the struggle of writing and rewriting a passage and still feeling at the end of it that it's wrong. There is no post to pass that says this thing is done. There is no end of the day; there is no moment when you put on your coat and say, "Good, I'll pick this up tomorrow." It is still in my head, every minute of every day, like a cloud I have to do everything else inside of. I'm tempermental. I'm obsessed. I'm distracted. I'm unreasonable. And there's no moment when I expect this condition to cease.

Art, as DaVinci says, is never finished, only abandoned.

And D&D is art. I have emphasized that from the beginning. Leaving me with wonder when I hear people remark upon how much work something is taking, or how much work it is going to require, or how little the work is worth it. 'Work' doesn't obtain reward. 'Labor' obtains reward. It may be that I am forced to define those two terms using words that are so ill-defined that the pedantic among the readers cannot begin to comprehend what I've said because they're disputing the definitions I've chosen for work or labor, but be that as it may - WORK is that which I do because I feel it deserves doing. LABOR is something I do for pay.

If you will work because you feel expectations of applause, then you are confusing work with labor and you are bound to be sorely, awfully disappointed. You will sit miserable in your DM's chair and resent that the players did not reward you for the work you did, or you will feel the appreciation was not up to what it was last week, or a hundred other payment schemes in your mind will not bear fruit. If you will write your first book expecting applause, you will get no further in your work because your disappointment will discourage you from writing a second book. If you are perhaps J.D. Salinger, your first book will gain you so much applause you will learn your lesson later, when your second book is spat upon. One book that you write, that you struggled for, sooner or later, will be spat upon. Just as your D&D world, too, will inevitably fail to reward your work as though it were labor.

We do not do this thing because it is repaid. We do this thing because we are compelled. Not by some mystical force that seizes us and insists upon our work, but because we perceive that this thing we do should be done. My world, the maps, the rules, that documentation, the structure and the random tables, should exist. I imagine it, I feel how it should be shaped, I rush about shaping it, it emerges as a shape and I spend more time shaping it further - there is no sense to the action, no rationale, no practicality. There's no compensation, save perhaps in having a thing that should have existed actually exist.

There are moments I contemplate what I do and have a feeling that it is good. I have a visceral, positive reaction. It sweeps through me. It is very personal. It is never shared wholly with another person, for even if another person sits beside me, and sees it, their understanding is not MY understanding. Their praise is hollow, because they only see what has been done; they do not know the means, nor the sweat, nor the errors, hidden in the lines, that I know. I see the thing not as it appears, but as it manifests. I see the history of the thing stretching into the past. I see more than anyone.

Those moments are brief, however. They are quickly followed by another moment, the moment when I realize it is still not what it should be, that the manifestation isn't complete, and that sitting in the glow of the thing isn't GETTING IT DONE.

I have never learned to be happy with something I have abandoned. I have abandoned books, and I can hardly bear to open them. I have never been able to abandon my world. It is the artwork I never will abandon. Not until by body abandons me.

1 comment:

kimbo said...

Labour for your jobs, work on your vocations.

Compelling vocations are ill understood these days (if indeed they ever were) if they dont have money attached or are part of some course or defined social club or (cringe) hobby.

My wife has singing I have my martial art. We have feelings of vocation similar to those you describe. There will no reward for except the fleeting visceral, perhaps some satisfaction along the way, little or no objective measure of progression and it can never be completed only continued.

I hope you accept that this work you do is appreciated and that praise given is genuine even if the gentle readers cannot grasp all that you have gone through for its creation.