Monday, September 17, 2012

Seed Planting, Bean Counting

“Be a seed planter, not a bean counter” says the ad in the airport. A nice sentiment and one that my work leans to. But not lately. For some four weeks now, it feels like bean counting is at the top of the agenda and without active intervention, it could easily keep going in that direction. I’m still trying to close out summer courses, book the last flights for the Fall’s workshops, restock my various book inventories. There often is some pleasure in this kind of work, but I’m noticing that without the creative work, without the seed planting, the bean counting isn’t as wholly satisfying as it might be.

As any farmer knows, seed planters also have to be bean counters and vice-versa. I’ve never been a farmer, but I admire from afar the whole life they live by necessity far from the over-specialized culture. The blend of creating, planning and caretaking, the mix of science, math and handy fix-it knowledge, the living through the cycle of seed planting, bloom, fruit and decay. In some ways, not that different from the life of an artist.

For no artist is a seed planter alone, bursting with creative ideas that just gush forth into the air and plant themselves. We also need to plan and caretake, blend science and math, see our seed through to its bloom, count and share the fruit of our labors (the books, CD’s, paintings, etc.) and accept the cycle of decay to prepare for the next potent seed. Most of the artists I know are their own agents, their own accountants, sometimes their own producers and publishers, their own distributors, their own bookers and trip planners. Some do their time in the arts administration office and some make the full switch. We all must be bean counters on some level or another.

Despite the ad’s insinuation, it is not an either-or proposition. It is the conversation between the planting and counting that is at the heart of the matter. And, may I suggest, order matters. That is, the bean counting becomes more satisfying when the seed planting and plant tending has been fully accomplished. Or more forcefully, the creative force must be strong enough to push through the constant invitation to merely count. Sometimes we think we’ll just get through the bean counting and then finally be ready for the seed planting, like a friend who was in the business world for decades and thought to get into creative writing at retirement. Never happened.

So time for me to let the beans rest unsorted for awhile and put my next book project on the front burner. Still trying to decide which of eight books needs to come next (any suggestions?),  but I know that the moment I do, my days will take on a luster that they’re missing now. That chosen seed will be watered and lit by the sun of my steady efforts and constant dreaming. Of course, some bean counting must continue, but it will be after the seed has been dropped in the earth, watered and tended. 

Happy gardening!

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