Work

November 3, 2014

“Practice” and “exercise” entail preparation for something yet to come. They anticipate “discipline,” “persistence,” and “training.” I don’t relate any of these words to my own ways of working. Instead, I find it necessary to relax, and then to distract myself from any semblance of exercise by attending to that which is unrelated to effort—thoughts inaccessible from a purposeful state; attraction without reason.

I have been exercising regularly for the past 25 years. I run a few miles a few times per week. At this point, the habit is ingrained mentally as well as physically. In fact, exercise increases my bodily awareness that physicality and mentality are co-integral. I’m not training for anything in particular, however. I don’t compete. I don’t run marathons. I exercise because it sustains my overall well-being as much as food, sleep, and relationships. It feels good. I don’t often think about it.

I spoke about money once with a friend who doesn’t exercise. We realized that he generates income the way I run. That is, I struggle to stay focused on the necessity of making money while it’s inconceivable that I would stop being active, whereas he occasionally laments that he feels out of shape but would never allow himself to fall behind on rent.

I may use exercise to exorcise whatever might prevent me from conjuring the calm lack of focus that enables peripheral sensibilities to take over. But if relaxation is a working method, it isn’t comparable to control (nor to exercise, practice, routine, earning), not even as an opposite. The processes of accrual and expenditure it involves are relatively passive.

On the other hand, it’s important to distinguish between inducing the mind from which works evolve (a state I’ve likened to relaxation rather than exercise) and what it is to work. Using words like “practice” and “exercise” in reference to work obscures the fact that the work artists do is work, and they must be paid to work if they are to go on working. That is, there is more at stake in renaming an artist’s work “practice” or “exercise” than simply choosing another activity her method of working more closely resembles. The same risk of euphemism is obvious when “fees” are called “honoraria.” In my experience, an honorarium inevitably amounts to inadequate pay.

In short, when it comes to the work I do, I don’t have a practice, I don’t exercise, I work.