Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Attack of the 50-Foot Quotidian

An interesting exchange - and a new word for me - followed my book report on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I wrote about how the book had filled me with motivation to do my best and exercise my creative juices.

In case you don't follow the comments, CK wrote:
So many had that same feeling you have expressed after reading The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged; don't be alarmed, the feeling will pass.
After I replied, "CK, I hope when you said 'the feeling will pass' you didn't mean the feeling where I said 'It makes me want to go write another Great American Novel, compose a symphony or two, and otherwise exercise my muse to death,'" came the response:
That is exactly what I meant. The quotidian wins over the exalted.
In Fountainhead, Rand created archetypes; in Atlas Shrugged she fleshed them out. Finish A.S. and you will know the exaltation feeling again and a few weeks or months or years later and you re-read A.S. and wonder what happened to you in the interim. The symphony will not be finished, the Great Novel or Expose will remain inchoate; the world shaking business plan will have gathered dust in the face of the inevitable quotidian.
Quotidian: adj. (rhet.), daily, occurring every day. What a great word! What a depressing observation! And perhaps/probably true. From the launch of this blog, I have been occasionally writing about my hopes and dreams for the future, things I'm going to do someday when I break away from the, err, quotidian. The daily grind, the wage-slave job, keeps getting in the way.

Eight days after finishing The Fountainhead, I have tinkered around the edges of the dreams, set down a page full of notes about the novel, worked on a number of side projects - and worked the day job as usual, caught Sunday's ball game, Heroes and House - I don't think CK was trying to throw cold water as much as keep me grounded in reality, but I must say that without his/her little tweak, I may not even have tinkered around the edges.

That's the challenge of motivational moments - staying motivated. What I need is the fire in the belly that comes when you've lost your wage-slave job and have to find a new way to keep the lights on and put food on the table - and do it while maintaining the wage-slave job as a security blanket. Is that wanting to have my cake and eat it too? As the dreams glisten tantalizingly at the edge of my consciousness, I fear that I'll only launch the dreams by working up the guts to pursue them full time. What's that you say, B.W.? "Refuse to be afraid"? How dare I throw my own words up in my face ...

Hmmm ... ignore the cheerleader, save my world? Maybe the writer's strike will free up a few hours a week for the pursuit of happiness - or maybe I should shut up and dream.

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Anonymous Taran Jordan said...

Keeping the fire stoked in one's belly is a beeitch, ain't it?

I guess that's why I still recall so fondly my bout with depression - because somehow, the slog-a-day job I had then wasn't the primary focus. Rather, I knew intensely what I didn't want, and I felt misery deep enough to get me writing about it.

May Sarton wrote in one of her journals, "I became haunted by something I'd read, that when the Japanese were in a period of peace, they painted only fans." Writers are the same; probably all creative types are. There's a need for struggle on an ongoing basis, to sift out what's wanted from what's not. To give the spice (and spark) of angst to the work.

I suppose this is why so many artists are depressed, and why so many writers drink. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to spend your life tiptoeing along the razor's edge without falling into either abyss. And even more to come back and hit the keyboard or easel day after day with what one's gained or lost that day.

But in the end, it's the only way to make something magical, powerful, lasting of your art.

You've got what it takes. I hope you knew that already.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous sunni said...

Why can't exalted moments (or reaching for them) be quotidian?

(Very happy Thanksgiving wishes to you and yours!)

12:48 PM  
Anonymous pereldan said...

My problem is more that I know what I don't want, but I'm not as certain of what I do want...and some of the dreams I have are mutually pursue some of them, I would have to give up some of the things I would have to do to pursue others...and for some of them, I would have to give up everything I've already accomplished...and which goals are more important to me change with my moods sometimes...

2:08 PM  
Anonymous CK said...

Truly I was not throwing cold water, the world does that in great impersonal quantities. When you experience exaltation, then the world will begin to throw more cold water and it will be personal.
If I might suggest, re-read the Ellsworth Toohey speeches and the Wesley Mouch speeches. They are the quotidian too, the small, the envious, the ones who propagate the idea that it is as great to paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa as to have painted the original.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Dr. T said...

I've discovered that in order to be successful, you have to be arrogant enough to believe that everyone in the world should see this vision that you and only you could have possibly come up with. You have to be obsessive-compulsive enough to work on it constantly, and to rework it like you're a perfectionist. And then you have to be humble enough to take criticism and rejection, and patient enough to get it published. Obsession is the name of the game -- I have my Ph.D., and the only ones in the program who got theirs were those who were absolutely obsessed with the work.

5:33 PM  

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