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Caring only for the moment of creation
“For centuries, red was the treasure of the Incas and Aztecs, and then the wealth of red belonged to Spain. When it is fresh, the pigment, carmine, made from the blood of a cochineal beetle, is one of the purest dyes produced in the natural world. But it is also the most fleeting.
J.M.W. Turner painted with carmine even though he knew of its impermanence. And so his work, his bequest to the nation of England, was far more colorful than the signature grey stormscapes we see today. Imagine an artist trying to capture the moment of a setting sun unleashing a brilliant slash of light through the clouds. As he reached to dip his brush, how could he not choose the best pigment, the perfect red, even though he knew it wouldn’t last? What if words became illegible after they were written? Wouldn’t we write them all the same? Unconcerned with posterity, Turner cared little of a painting’s longevity but of the very moment it was created. Red, vanishing and impermanent, was his immediate—near fugitive—desire.”
Jericho Parms, “A Chapter on Red” published in Hotel Amerika
As a writer who often struggles and toils through the process—whether it’s writing these reflections or the newsletter for my business, playing around with poetry, crafting descriptions of workshops that will entice people to sign up, or the many other things I find myself writing on a regular basis—relevance is certainly always top of mind, but for many pieces of writing permanence is also.
Would I write the words all the same if I knew they would become illegible after they were written?
Some of it, clearly not. The entire purpose of marketing materials is to be shared, seen by others in hopes they will take action. It would do no good to write those things if they disappeared once written. I’d save a lot of time and angst if that were the case, though. It’s an interesting thought experiment: How would I get people to attend workshops if I could not write about them? Perhaps that is better explored in my business newsletter.
Other things I write have a different purpose, a different meaning—both for me and those I share them with. But there is an audience and I write knowing that someone else will read my words and write with the intent of making an impact on the reader. How would my writing change if there were no audience? If I were writing only for myself. (I’d care less about grammar, punctuation and capitalization, that’s for sure.)
Most of the reflections for this newsletter come from a place of exploring my own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about the world around me, about myself, about how I engage in the world. I like processing through writing. It’s cathartic and therapeutic for me. I’ve found myself, after having written about different life experiences or digging deep on a topic like belonging, feeling as though I’ve completed a particularly productive therapy session. That would all be worthwhile, even without an audience. In fact, many of those writings I don’t share. If the files were deleted, it wouldn’t take away from what I got out of writing them in the first place.
Perhaps it’s a worthwhile thought experiment for all of us, about everything we do, not just creative pursuits like writing or painting. What would we stop doing if the results were to fade? If the passage of time rendered our efforts illegible, would the efforts still be worth it to us? How much of what we focus on is performative, about the audience—real or perceived? What would you do differently if your only concern was the moment of effort itself?
Add your Echo:
What would you continue doing, whether or not it was seen or recognized? What would you stop doing if you knew your efforts would never be seen or recognized?
(Reply or tap the heart to share your thoughts)