Forecast 12

Building a House

September 20th, 2008

I know I’ve got a strange way of living.  It may not seem like it from the outside looking in, on account of there being loads of really normal things I shamelessly value about my lifestyle – going to the movies, pampering the living hell out of my dog, eating out, riffing on toilet-humor jokes, obsessing over my Netflix account, watching the news, indulging in a television series here and there; you know, those sorts of things.  I make no excuses, I like what I like and most people around me know that there just ain’t no reason to go around the block to impress me.  I mostly just think hanging out and tooting around are pretty good.

But from the inside looking in, this whole business of my existence is a risky and reckless mess.  Sure, I consider myself fairly motivated, determined, persistent and so on, however, I have a tendency to over accumulate projects and goals, maybe even to scatter my energy and ideas across so much ethereal and real space that nothing appears to connect.  These are tough moments for me.  I like plans.  I like blueprints and I like tangible, tactile things.  I want to touch and see both the conception of and creation of projects.

This decision to move from Richmond to Philadelphia may have come as a surprise to some of you.  After all, my return to Virginia in 2006 after just six months spent living out of state was a widely publicized relief.  (Well, at least, it was widely publicized on this website and in letters, e-mails, and phone calls to friends).  I’m a Virginian after all, born and raised in and enamored with the Old Dominion.  Well, the short, simple, and honest explanation for the relocation is that Juliette needed to go to law school and Temple was the best place for her to go.  Ensuring that she’s able to do fulfilling and important work with her life is crucial to both of us and our future together.  Simple!

But I’ve got some natural insecurity about bouncing around, uprooting and re-rooting, only to bounce around a bit more.  Oh there’s a romance to the freedom and excitement of relocations.  But there’s a recklessness and an impracticality to it as well that wears out my cranium as I search for the logic, the blueprint, the tangible in the assembly and disassembly of home and work.  You see, I’m trying to do something unique with my life: build some sort of art empire through which to publish and create, print and network, support and expand this sort of talent in the people around me.  Don’t I need to sit still for that to effectively happen?

It may not seem strange, but I consider my strange way of living to be that I nearly always confuse living with building.  After all, they’re both verbs but they’re both nouns as well.  Make a living, make a building.  Continue living, continue building.  To me, the ideas are both synonymous and interchangeable.

The best advice I ever heard on writing was a simple maxim to combat inertia:  stay in the room.  If you want to finish a story and you want it to be good, stay in the room.  Don’t walk the dog.  Don’t make coffee.  Don’t go out for a smoke.  Don’t put it away until tomorrow.  Stay in the room.  And hell, if you’re not in the room to begin with, you’ve got bigger trouble.

In Richmond, I left behind a big idea that had only just begun to take root and grow.  It was a full-service specialty print shop, run by artists and artisans, blending old standard commercial notions with a kind of higher-touch, something separate from Parcell Press but obviously connected, something that could withstand the advance of technology and be a strong foundation to the art empire.  It was an idea that was fully equipped, fully housed, and came complete with friends as partners.  It was agonizing to leave it and reinforces my feeling of recklessness.  And though I am committed to retaining productive contact, the growth of this project is on pause at least for a while.  So the blueprint is useless, the plan is intangible, and I have a touch of shame for having disobeyed the best creative advice I’ve ever heard.  I got distracted and left the room.

In Philadelphia, I re-launched the Parcell Press website with the help of my brother.  It was a kind of bittersweet advancement.  An old idea finally coming to fruition mostly on account of having moved and being underemployed with an itch to build.  Now that the site is live and functioning and I am back to the day-to-day of running the online shop and communicating with artists and customers, pursuing new projects to highlight, and feeling the pulse of independent publishing below my fingers, I’m realizing something else:  in favor of building the print shop, I left the room a year ago on the Parcell Press distribution operation, the website, and to an extent, the zine world in general.

So now I find myself by default back in the Parcell Press “room.”  And though I do think this bouncing around is reckless and it’s certainly not the most logical thing my mind has encountered, I’m actually beginning to feel like I’m building again.  I’m starting to see the blueprint, and noticing that, for me, staying in the room means sticking to a project that I created.  I have a lot of plans – a lot of rooms to stay in.  That’s what my strange life is all about, right?  Spending time working on all these different projects so that I can ultimately tie them together to build a kind of empire?  Make a living, make a building, continue living, continue building.

I still love the simple advice stay in the room.  It’s an unforgiving confrontation of the susceptibility everyone has to wander off, to get frustrated and distracted, to toss a piece of work in the trash rather than to finish it.  It’s a notion that compels me to complete something when I didn’t expect I could, and completion is a triumph.  The thing is, though, it’s just not a maxim that applies well to the types of projects that exist in more than one room.  And hot damn, I am really looking forward to connecting all these rooms together – print shop, Parcell Press, law degree and all – to build an awesome house.

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