Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gift Economies vs. Treasure Economies

I have several friends who have already done their taxes.  I planned to do that this week-end; I fully intended to enter the labyrinth and come out in a single afternoon.

But it took me more time than I anticipated just to organize all my receipts.  Presenting my writing business to the IRS is much more complicated this year than any other year.  I'm grateful for that, in a way.  It's amusing to me, that when I dreamed of having more writing income to be offset by writing expenses, I didn't also anticipate the additional paperwork.  Just adding up expenses made me need a cup of tea.

I've also been writing a short story this week-end.  My friend and I took a pledge that we'd have a new story finished by this Thursday.  I haven't written a short story since the summer of 2010, when I fell in love with Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, and I saw a way to revise some short stories that I'd written into a linked cycle.  But I needed more.  So, back then, I wrote one, but then my enthusiasm fizzled when my computer crashed.  I still had notes for the story that I meant to write then--it was a story I'd been thinking about since the fall of 2001.  Back then, I didn't write it back in 2001 because I was adjuncting and spending all my time driving.

So, I've been writing and been happy about how easy it is to fall back into a different kind of writing.

As I write, I like to catch up on NPR shows that I haven't had a chance to hear during the week.   I listened to Meryl Streep on this Fresh Air episode, and I was happy to hear how much Barbra Streisand had inspired her, and later, she had a chance to tell Streisand and Streep says, "We can't know what we mean to each other as artists." 

I started thinking of all the artists who have been important to me, and how they have no idea.  And I like to think that some day, there will be a person out there who finds my work important, that my work might open a door to a new world.

Of course, there's danger in that.  My short story that I'm writing revolves around a grad student who discovers that her favorite feminist writer isn't as ideal as she had believed.

I'm reminded of this Andy Warhol quote that Leslie Pietrzyk gives us in a recent post on her blog:  "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art."

I was also struck by this quote in Nadia Bolz-Weber's blog post:  "That’s the thing with the kingdom of God, there is no personal treasure to be had…there are only gifts to be shared."

If you change the religious language to writing language, you'd end up with this:  "That’s the thing with the Poetry World, there is no personal treasure to be had…there are only gifts to be shared."

Or:  "That’s the thing with the Creative Life, there is no personal treasure to be had…there are only gifts to be shared."

How would our creative lives change if we really believed that?  For one thing, we'd write/create what interests us, not what the market demanded.  We wouldn't care about building a platform, beyond what would make it possible for seekers of our gifts to connect with us.  Could we throw away our worry stones if we believed that the gift economy trumps the treasure economy?