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10/28/2005 Archived Entry: "Creative tension/human complexity"


I have a client. Worked with him for a long time. Years. He's one of the most honorable, decent people I've ever met. Nice, too. As courteous as a Victorian gentlemen. Never utters a foul word. Pays his bills practically by return mail, even when times are tough. He cares about me -- and in fact we care about each other -- in a warm, concerned, strictly Platonic, but very personal way. This guy is a prince.

BUT. The instant he's got an idea on his mind, he's got to track me down and throw it at me. Not tomorrow. Not an hour from now. NOW. If I ignore his first call or email, his calls may come every hour. Three or four hours after his original brainstorm, he'll send me an all-caps, one-line email: "DID YOU GET MY MESSAGE???"

Now, this is 100 percent the opposite of the way I work. I'm one of those arty types who needs to waft for uninterrupted weeks through the serene and untroubled springtime meadows of thought. If the phone rings once in the morning with some irritating nonsense, or if a computer glitch interrupts my tea-in-bed Net browsing, I'm like, "Oh, what a madhouse! I'll never be able to get any writing done today!"

You remember the princess and the pea? Well, I might not notice the pea under 20 mattresses. But

if you put a chirping cricket under there, I'd be "Oh, my God, how can you torment me so with all the world's noise? I suffer! I suffer!"

It's true. What can I say? For a writer, I'm really extraordinarily sane and normal. (Really. Trust me. It's true.) But ... I'm a writer. They're weird. Every last one of 'em. And when we're Creating (a process that can go on for weeks and look like Doing Absolutely Nothing) anything as much as a fly buzzing in the next room can Shatter the Holy Flow.

Living in the Real World, I've spent most of my career in one long interruption. That's life, right? Recently I've decided NO MORE. I will now claim my personal meadow of uninterruptedness, no matter what the world or any specific inhabitant of it thinks.

So you can see how this man and I have an uneasy relationship. That relationship is brimming over on both sides with respect and liking. And yet we drive each other stark, screaming bonkers.

I explain to him why I Must Not Be Interrupted. He tries. He really does. Bends over backwards to accommodate me. Then a week or a month or two months later, he starts all over again. It's his nature and that's all there is to it.

These kinds of relationships are the most difficult of all adult human interactions, I think. When you like and respect someone and they feel the same about you, you naturally expect harmony. But some purely human aspect of us, completely aside from our shared interests and goals, still divides us.

We've all been there, I suppose.

And yet ... there's also a glorious paradox. Sometimes it's exactly those uneasy relationships that produce the finest work. I've heard it was true in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, who could barely stand the sight of each other. And that's been true in the case of me and this other Sullivan.

I don't know quite what it is. But somehow the very fact that we are so different and think so oppositely in some ways enables us both to contribute something extra to ur projects. So the work has an edge on it. It's not fully harmonized or homogenized. It's not peaceful meadow work. It's I'm going to show you. I'm going to challenge you. I'm going to argue with you (calmly) until one of us has honed his or her point so sharp there's no turning it away. And this work will be tighter and clearer and more honest for it.

It's an amazing relationship.

As often as not, though, the work Sullivan keeps insisting on diminishing with his interruptions is work I'm doing for him. Sigh.

He's a wonderful man.

But he still drives me stark, screaming bonkers.

Sullivan, if you're reading this -- I'LL CALL YOU IN THE &^%$#ING MORNING!

Posted by Claire @ 08:38 AM CST

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