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Lusty Lady

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Incorporating the catastrophe of my personality

As I approach the one-year mark of my layoff and introduction to full-time freelancing, I'm finding that I am learning so much, yet there is so much more to learn. I often feel like I'm flailing, crouched behind the staid projects I've been doing for years, the ones that are almost rote, even when they are frustrating, the ones that make a little bit but not too much money, the ones that are fine but not moving me to the next level. I forget that sometimes you have to get accustomed to one thing before you leapfrog to the next. Or maybe I just need to take more risks.

Speaking of which, I met with my accountant, who recommend that I incorporate. I get all the reasons that makes sense, but it unnerves me, even though I saw the numbers. I get the logic behind it but it feels like turning myself into a corporation means I'll be selling out my emotions in some way, that rather than help me make money, it will hinder me in the actual act of doing the work I need to do to earn money. Ultimately, that process of paperwork and making up a name and all of that feels so serious and adult, which seems at odds for someone who is about to visit a Hello Kitty Spa. More so, it feels like the antithesis of creativity, even though I know creativity alone does not pay my rent. Sometimes I'm not even sure what does, yet according to those numbers, I did well, better than I would have guessed.

I picked up Katie Roiphe's new book of essays, In Praise of Messy Lives, at the library, and skipped ahead to her Mad Men essay, "The Allure of Messy Lives." In it, she quotes Don Draper quoting Frank O'Hara's poem "Mayakovsky."

Don quotes this part:
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
That led me to reading more about the man, Vladimir Mayakovsky, O'Hara's friend and a Russian poet and playwright who committed suicide. Here's a little from that Wikipedia entry:
In 1938 the Mayakovskaya Metro Station was opened to the public. In 1974 the Russian State Museum of Mayakovsky was opened in the center of Moscow in the building where Mayakovsky resided from 1919 to 1930.[12]

Frank O'Hara wrote a poem named after him, "Mayakovsky" in which the speaker is standing in a bathtub, a probable reference to his play "The Bathhouse".

In 1986 English singer and songwriter Billy Bragg recorded the album Talking with the Taxman about Poetry, named after a namesake Mayakovsky's poem.

In 2007 Craig Volk's stage bio-drama "Mayakovsky Takes The Stage" (based on his screenplay "At The Top Of My Voice") won the PEN-USA Literary Award for Best Stage Drama.[13]
The poem I found so beautiful, so stunning, so striking, that made me relate, like Don, to the catastrophe of my personality that seems to get me in trouble with its impulsivity, seemed trite after I read more about Mayakovsky, but still powerful. I am now carrying O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency in my bag, a slim, potent volume. Maybe there will be more revelations.

So back to me. At the same time as I feel a little bit odd about turning myself into a business, it's exciting, and the fact of the matter is, it already is a business. I just submitted an essay on spec about something that's extremely personal, but it helped to get it out, to write about it. It feels as surreal as anything that's happened in the last year. I feel like the least business-minded person ever and now I'm going to be a business, just by existing. That's probably the wrong way to think about it, but it's how it feels. The work I do, rather than me, the human being, is my business, and yet almost everything I do winds up as fodder for my work, sometimes in ways I could never have predicted. I don't know how to separate them, and I think if I were try to separate the "real" me from the "writing" me, I would fail at being both.

That is the real "issue," if it's an issue at all. The writing about my life part comes naturally; it's how I sort out the good and the bad and the confusing and the in between. It's a good reminder as I wonder whether to pitch an essay about one of the craziest things I've ever done to a new editor; my first instinct was, "What will she think of me?" And yet...I want to share it, to get it out there and make it seem, even marginally, a little less crazy, because I wrote it down, because I contextualized it.

I'm not going to pretend I have a thing in common with Frank O'Hara, save for the fact that words, trite as they are, are how I cope. I hope it all means more than writing off the cost of the O'Hara book, because that is precisely what I don't want to become, someone reduced to figures, numbers, facts that don't mean anything without feelings.

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