Your Own Private Concord

[Dear readers: It’s nearly the 20th anniversary of this, my freelance writing business manifesto (terms of service, mission statement, liturgy, or what-you-will), so thought it a good time to remind myself how far off track I’ve gotten. Which means course-correction imminent. It’s the sleeve of a cassette recording I gave out to everyone who attended my business launch party in December 1992. The cassette contained songs played at the party, but the sleeve was purely for entertainment/reading pleasure. I also wrote my obituary that year. Enjoy!]

Manifesto by Michael Maupin

WHERE’VE YOU BEEN LATELY?

This is about the guy who “goes off to find himself.” Wish him luck. Send him a card. Buy his last lunch. Reminisce. Laugh. Sneer. Chide. Whatever you do, remember one thing:

Someday you may be in his shoes.

Christians have a heady concept. Their Big Guy once said that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, “Ye must be born again.” I know it’s not necessary to add paint to a Picasso, but I’d throw in: “Yeah, born again. And again. And Again.”

Three years ago I sketched out ideas to leave the corporate confines I’d been in for four years. Going into 1990 I knew I had to see ahead. What did I want to do? How could I do it? Should I just wing it? That would surely take the heat off me deciding anything hasty or drastic. And I had a hefty list of Drastic. If I moved … maybe an artists’ colony somewhere, or Louisville, California, London, Utah, Prague … I’d even thought of living out of a van with everything but the dog and a shotgun.

All this because I thought I’d lost myself. Then I got the news. Finding yourself really means coming back to yourself. And that means doing what you love doing, all the time. Find a way to do that and you find yourself.

Then you get to move on to all the other stuff.

84 IN 92

Some year, huh? Folks’ house burns down. Not once, twice. Little nephew Colin is born in May. National economy with the vivacity of a garden slug. Barnburner political election. Was it going to be more of the same? RE-reassessment of earlier lists: What did I REALLY WANT TO DO…DAMN IT!

I’d talked about a break—not an escape FROM so much as a step TOWARD vocation and recreation. I’d snap the literary-play/business-bore death grip and establish clients and write fulltime. Others wouldn’t hire me? I’D HIRE ME.

As the year zipped on I was faced with a calendar list that included the ominous words: THE BREAK. That’s the twist when a Blowhard like me gets properly introduced to Reality.

Put Up or Shut Up.

Actually, in my case, Put Up and Start Writing.

Or put up with all that I’d been bellyaching about (the night-grinding teeth lead to the morning headache that lead to the fatigue that lead to the lapsed rewrite that lead to the dropped date that lead to the 5:30 wake-up that lead to the drainpipe coffee—ack! What did I REALLY WANT TO DO?? DOUBLE DAMN IT!!) Was this worth saving, this horrid replication of the ‘Eighties nightmare played out in starched white shirts and unblinking unthinking unrecognition? Turn back to the Barricades of Cubicle-Plush Silence and the Doublespeak of the Corporate Washroom?

  • Back to another Monday to bitch about the cafeteria?
  • Another Tuesday to fly off the handle about a letter in the Strib?
  • Another Wednesday to stare at the clock?
  • Another Thursday that doesn’t happen to be a payday? (A unique concept in itself: as the old Soviet saving goes, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”)
  • Another Friday of anniversary cake, hushed phone calls, impudent loudspeaker pages, mindless memos and the TGIF giggle and squeal that we all get the joke, swing the tie and stroke the stroke.

I’d rather suck muck out of a bayou, thank you.

ART VERSUS (OR VERSES) BIZ

I believe in Art. I may be an artist, but only if I’m working and not worrying about if you’re watching.

But, in believing in art…will that bar my entry into the world of business? Some businessfolk—and certainly some artists—might think so. And more revealingly, I THOUGHT SO. To fully engage in my business, I can’t entertain that luxury. The Starving Artist shivering in a Garret (a what in a what?), on the street exchanging food for a box of paints, with the scraggily beard and the hairshirt—WELL, that paints (to pardon the pun) a touching picture. And if you enjoy those kind of illusions, you’re welcome to them.

I can no longer afford them.

The relation between talking and writing can be a real stickler for some writers. A lot of people TALK about writing. I think they should be TALKING so they WRITE. This really hits a nerve with me. I love conversation. It is an art, but few [people] realize this. It’s people-music, actually. Listen to two people talking some time. Then listen when a third person joins in. Listen for intonation and rhythm. Pauses are important between speaking, but I can’t understand why anyone should ever love silence. You’ll get enough of that in the grave. I don’t know about you, but I came for the music.

When writers and artists and businessfolk get together, ideas cannot be exchanged grudgingly. Though talk is cheap, it’s still toll at the gate of action. Some flimsy barriers need breaking down, that’s all. Leave ’em up, and possibilities diminish. The 900-lb. gorilla of Business As Usual usually gets it into his head to climb the Empire State building … and we all know what happens to him.

I believe that doing business by exercising all of myself not only serves me, but my future clients as well. I’ve got a pet peeve with the Personal/Professional dichotomy. To me it looks like a clear-cut case of schizophrenia to maintain a split between your private and work life—an effort that expends more energy than it ever generates. I need my interests and talents and desires. I need music and poetry and art and play. I need to learn, to explore, to question. But I also need to work and generate an income.

I live in the Real World, but it needn’t be a dull one.

GOTTA LOVE A MYSTERY

Here’s what Thoreau learned and it directly applies to those of you at your own personal crossroads (Thoreau, by the way, could not go to Walden Pond today, and neither should you, except be it on the outskirts of your own private Concord):

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”

So be it.

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~ by completelyinthedark on May 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “Your Own Private Concord”

  1. I’m kind of sad my 21-year-old self didn’t run into you somewhere back in the day. I would have been pretty fascinated by the person who wrote this manifesto.

    As it stands, though, my 40-year-old self is happy she has become friends with the present-and-accounted-for M.M. Better late than never, right? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jodi! I just inadvertently “liked” my own post. I’m blushing to even admit that! Damn.

      Like

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