Sept 27, 2023–While completing yet another task that you never seem stop needing to do, it struck me how little time we spend actually doing the task, versus preparing to do said task.
If it were a pie chart, the part spent doing the task would be the size of the slice of pie your brother cuts for you as a kid. Preparing for the task would be the rest of the pie, before your brother ate it.
Teachers will affirm this truth.
Most of teaching has nothing to do with pedagogy, curriculum, or making the world a better place for all humankind. No, teaching is all about organizing the room–seating students, scrounging materials, and balancing bathroom breaks come before magical moments of learning. Even a basic elementary level craft project requires gathering bins of paper, scissors, yarn, thread, brads, glue, toilet paper tubes, sequins, and any other ingredient in enough quantity to distribute evenly so Jill doesn’t yell, “No fair,” while looking at Johnny’s desk.
Committees are another place where nothing gets done, ever. Sitting on a committee means perpetual preparation. Recently someone proposed conducting a survey of audience members at an event. Teacher Me’s mind immediately went to:
-Forms must be printed on card stock so they are easier to write on while standing.
-How will they be distributed so as not to slow down the line?
-What will we use as containers to collect them and where do we place them?
-Pencils! How will we make sure 500 people have a pencil?
The details are all dutifully written down in the Minutes, which are never read and always approved at the next meeting where you are preparing for the next meeting.
Professional musicians know the time spent on stage performing is Elysian bliss. Getting to the stage is purgatory.
In my professional gigging days, we’d often leave at noon for a 9 p.m. gig. That was after loading up the bus/van/rusted station wagon earlier in the day. After an interminable journey and a stop at Dairy Queen for a meal of fried fowl and wet flour on top of dry flour, you would arrive at your destination. After running down the janitor who had the only key to the building, you’d unpack and load in, set up, connect, and tune in order to be ready for the audience to arrive. At the end of the gig, usually 4 hours later, the process would be reversed and you’d return home around dawn.
For this you’d end up with 50 bucks and heartburn.
I write really fast. I can churn out a quality press release in 20 minutes. I’d do that for free. What I tell clients is that they are paying me for all the other crap–tracking down information, interviewing subjects, fact-checking, proofing, editing, shooting photos, confirming media appearances, and losing invoices.
I’ve never been a painter. I think it’s because I would only want to paint, not prepare to paint. I have no idea how to stretch a canvas, what type of paint to purchase, the value of camel hair vs cat hair, and how to mix burnt umber. By the time I put brush to canvas, I fear all of my inspiration would have dried up like capless tubes of acrylic.
One reason I never aspired to become a chef is that I used to work prep in a hotel kitchen. My job–my entire job, all day, every day–was preparing food to be assembled and served. I washed and peeled lettuce leaves to serve as “bowls,” sliced onions for onion rings, made salad dressing, and rolled rolls. You can’t even bake a pie without flouring up the kitchen and pitting cherries. And who wants to make a dessert that requires weaving skills for the crust?
I’m sure you have examples from your vocation/avocation, whether it’s making wine, directing a play, building houses or tearing them down. It’s amazing that anything ever gets done. Or even started.
Now, I’m going to take a break and see if I can find a piece of pie.