A decade ago, I read an interview with Jessa Crispin, talking about her work on Bookslut, and what she said stuck with me:
I’m very Midwestern in that I just do the work that is in front of me. I just did the work that was in front of me for six and a half years. Somehow, there were just always readers, and I’m appreciative that they exist.
I don’t know if she’d still say she works that way (I should ask her) but it’s the way I’ve worked all these years, and the way I continue to work: I just do the work that’s in front of me.
In 1939, C.S. Lewis gave a lecture to some students called “Learning During War-Time.” (Collected in The Weight of Glory.) He addressed whether it was worthwhile to think about literature, art, etc. — what we might, in the contemporary vernacular, call “non-essential” work — when civilization seemed on the brink of collapse. He thought it was.
At a certain point in the lecture he talks about the various enemies of doing our work. One of them is frustration, the idea that we might not have the time to finish everything we want to get done in this life.
“Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment,” he said. “It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”
It is my 37th birthday today, and what I really crave, more than anything, is a continuity to my days. Not an accumulation, the sense that they’re adding up to anything, not necessarily, just a continuity. The sense that one day leads into another leads into another leads into another on and on and on. That they make some kind of chain.
Robert Creeley has a poem, a kind of haiku, really, called “One Day” that goes like this:
One day after another—
They all fit.
Quarantine be damned. I did yesterday’s work yesterday. I’m doing today’s work today. I’ll do tomorrow’s work tomorrow.
And so on.
Doing the work that’s in front of me.