Monday, August 03, 2009

makers and managers

I have a really hard time with transitions, especially when it comes to doing something 'hard'. I remember at university my roommates saying, "Andrea's cleaning the toilet. She must have an exam". It's not just laziness and procrastination, though; once I get going on something all-consuming I also have a hard time stopping. So when I take a break from painting something large or working towards a deadline/finishing a project I know that, somewhere down the road, I will have to face another excruciating climb back into the driver's seat and it freezes me. Tomorrow I plan to thaw out. Or the next day.

Seriously, though, I thought my problems with compulsiveness and inertia were simply more dirt in a laundry list of character flaws I mostly try and suppress. Then I read this:

When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting.

Hallelujah and pass the Comet! It turns out I'm a 'maker' rather than a 'manager'. Or, rather, I am both a maker of art and the manager of a breathtakingly-busy household and the two are effectively incompatible. Art making requires an intense level of focus and it's so much easier to fall into the default position of making lunches and driving to soccer practices as it gives me the illusion of being somewhat productive. But once I get going on an art project I get behind in my Other Job and general panic ensues. I guess that's why Picasso and other celebrated makers had/have a phalanx of assistants and a bomb site of a personal life. You can't have it both ways.

Anyway, this article is about the corporate world (specifically startups) but applies to anyone like me, trying to balance two basically incompatible roles. Now, please excuse me as I have a bathroom to clean.


Blogger Ellen said...

YES, YES, YES! How I can relate to both your comments and the article. I work best late at night, no phones, kids asleep. Unfortunately, unlike the author, I don't have the luxury of sleeping in late. A few days of that and I become unproductive in everyway.

There's also some amount of culturally instilled guilt too, taking the time away from family to do something that isn't very lucrative or practical. I'm obsessed with working this all out somehow or at least learning to give myself a break and not feel the guilt so much. Yeah, Picasso had it easy, I'm sure he didn't ever think about whether Paloma had a clean dress to wear.

3/8/09 10:46 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't open the article but I also agree with the impossibility of the balancing act. My friend and I are convinced that most people (read women) who are succesful and productive artists don't have kids! Ouch, I'll probably get burnt for that.

3/8/09 11:18 p.m.  
Blogger Laure Ferlita said...

What an interesting read! Balance is an elusive beast, no doubt.

I liked his suggestion of partitioning the day into two work schedules. I couldn't do the 3 am thing and sleep to eleven, but I am wondering what I can do within my own work day to partition it into two halves.

Good luck, Andrea, cheering for you!

4/8/09 4:37 a.m.  
Blogger Michelle said...

I once asked my friend, an art gallery owner, why there were so many more 'successful' professional artist, and her answer was 'because they have wives.
understood. I need a do you.

4/8/09 4:56 a.m.  
Blogger Heather Plett said...

Oh man - that makes SO much sense! I think it just might revolutionize the way I plan my work day.

4/8/09 5:06 a.m.  
Blogger Angela Wales Rockett said...

We were just talking about that article with some friends of ours on Saturday!

Yes, a wife might be a handy thing to have.

4/8/09 8:26 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Yes - time does operate differently in different universes!

Great article and very good reasons for why, once in the mode its so IMPORTANT to keep going - its not being compulsive but productive.

4/8/09 9:31 a.m.  
Blogger Ian Lidster said...

I am assuredly a maker rather than a manager, and I procrastinate hugely. Unlike you, though, I have a profoundly difficult time in selling my wares. I can write like a hot damn, but I know my stuff should have gone farther afield for years now. You get out there and move your lovely creations and I cherish the fact you do.

4/8/09 11:00 a.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

Something many people (women?) have known for a long time. Knowing is all very well, but the juggling act is the tricky part!

4/8/09 2:37 p.m.  
Blogger denise said...

Oh, to have a unit of half a day... Excellent article, thank you for sharing.

4/8/09 5:37 p.m.  
Blogger andrea pratt said...

Ellen: I work best first thing in the morning which is completely impossible of course.

Laura: Three of early 20th C North America's foremost female painters were childless (Kahlo, O'Keeffe and Carr). Furthermore, two of them had artist husbands who were able to pave the way somewhat. Stinks, doesn't it?

Laure: Let me know if it works for you!

Michelle: Robert Genn has a wife, housekeeper, gardener and at least two studio assistants. Sounds good to me!

Heather: Any gems of wisdom after re-planning your day?

Angela: Or at least a worker elf.

Caroline: Well said!

Ian: Ha! Not this year. And I sure couldn't make a living at it even if I was paid twice what I get. Meanwhile, Robert Genn has 18 cars. Do I sound bitter? :)

Dinah: Must be why I'm sitting here ratehr than painting...

Denise: i'm working on negotiating a WHOLE DAY once a week. Let's see how fast that happens! :)

5/8/09 3:23 p.m.  
Blogger Cynthia said...

YES! I seem to be afflicted by the's not enough to be aware of it either. Very hard to switch gears.

6/8/09 11:04 a.m.  
Blogger Jana Bouc said...

That little paragraph about the maker and the meeting just says it all for me. So incredibly true! Transitions too are tough and I totally get it about cleaning the bathroom instead. I even tidy up the kitchen at work sometimes rather than start the next project.

6/8/09 10:15 p.m.  
Blogger Kikipotamus said...

Oh, man. That author nails it...what I knew but could not articulate! Sometimes they get it and let us makers go off in rooms by ourselves for days at a time, no phone even. But that's rare.

8/8/09 3:43 p.m.  

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