Rendered Fat Content


Artemisia Gentileschi:
Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (1638–39)
"I hope to stumble upon some insight …"

I might classify work as belonging to two general classes: steady work and SpurtyWork. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors avoided steady work, but in more modern times it has become the dominant form, usually dispatched in shifts, often extending over many contiguous hours, days, weeks, months, years, and careers. SpurtyWork exclusively occurs in bursts, often separated by lengthy idle or distracted periods, time spent away from focusing upon the effort. Steady workers and SpurtyWorkers have always held contentious, often contemptuous opinions of each other. To the dedicated steady worker, SpurtyWorkers seem frivolous and lacking in any primary focus. To SpurtyWorkers, the steady workers seem like wage slaves, masochistically mortgaging their lives to the unforgiving time clock and unrelenting seasons. Steady workers might reasonably aspire to efficient performances that could not possibly even compute when considered from within a SpurtyWork context. Steady workers might experience flow. SpurtyWorkers produce in fits, starts, and stalls, with apparently heavy focus upon stalling, idling. Farmers traditionally complained about hunter-gatherers' lax habits, thinking them lazy, though a hunter-gather could typically satisfy their needs working many fewer hours and so adopted lifestyles dominated by leisure rather than labor. Steady workers are Puritans, SpurtyWorkers, Bacchanalian, at least in each others' opinion.

Authoring's inescapably SpurtyWork.
If it could be steady work, I might have managed to design some workflow that didn't seem to continually interrupt itself. I consider this failure to be completely of a deeply personal nature, an absent imagination or a lack of skill, for as a modern gentleman, I was schooled exclusively in the steady work tradition. I was supposed to turn any activity into an infinitely replicable one such that any idiot wearing a headlamp might manage to stay engaged in it for at least eight hours each day, with short periods off as rewards for good behavior, which I'd define as forehead firmly forced down upon the spinning grindstone of time. Try as I might, though, my Authoring efforts more adhere to the hunter-gatherer ideal. I stalk some beast, down the bugger, then I'm fixed for a week. Or, I'm fetching oysters from the bottom of a bay and can only work for periods as long as I can hold my breath, then simply must rest between dives. Or, I'm lifting heavy things which wear me out in minutes. My work seems largely comprised of recovery periods.

I tell myself that it's thoughtful work, more filled with thoughting than with actual lifting, heavy or otherwise. I must carefully pick my way through scattered rockfall, material I cannot march in cadence or jog over. I crawl a lot and seem to tucker out, making little progress when compared to my jet-pack-wearing steady working brethren. My challenge, I'm coming to understand, seems centered around making this fundamental distinction between the Spurty nature of my Authoring work and the steady nature of alternative types. The Muse might manage to survive day after day of back-to-back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings, but Authoring's not that sort of effort and won't wear that slipper no matter how forcefully anyone might try to force its foot into it. I catch myself mentally trying to force my foot into that slipper. I should have learned better. SpurtyWork demands a different ethic. If I judge myself by steady work standards, I screw myself into unworkable contortions.

It's one thing to make this distinction, though, and quite another to live it. The usual rewards common to steady working do not seem to apply in the SpurtyWork context. Workweek's a meaningless measure. Lunch time's a moving abstraction; done, an arcane concept once common to The Middle Ages. I must somehow remain dedicated to efforts which always seem a little foreign, never routine. I'm picking up in the middles and suspending before completions, shifting from this to that and back, struggling to remember the purpose and the process. SpurtyWork has moments, which apparently must serve as its results, its rewards. It seems from within it, though, just discontinuous noise. It's Tuesday, and if Authoring were steady work, I might anticipate engaging in Tuesday tasks. Since it's SpurtyWork, I'll have to somehow find a wrinkle which might allow me entry and hope to find some edge I can hone to produce some sense of progress. I hope to stumble upon some insight which might serve as my payoff before stepping aside to consider What Next? again.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver