Friday, August 01, 2008

Money vs. Time vs. Misanthropy

I spent most of July working for the man, and now I feel a little less anxious about money. Getting my total net worth above zero makes a difference. Imagine that.

Now my anxious-ness has shifted focus from money to the other side of the same coin: time. Now that I'm committing the majority of my time to earning money, I'm running up against some real obstacles when it comes to accomplishing the things I think I'm supposed to actually do with my life. For whatever reason(s), one of those things is to write string quartet music that rocks. And I've got a deadline, since we start rehearsing again next week... but when do I finish the piece I'm working on, and how will I ever get the score and parts done before Thursday morning? And, oh crap – shouldn't I be doing publicity stuff for our show, now that it's less than four weeks away?! And on top of that, my list of grant proposal deadlines is pretty long for September and October, so I have to get started on some of that work during August, or I'll really be in trouble...

So here I am in anxious-land, nervous about how I can make time to do the things I “need” to do even though I “need” to pay the bills and I also “need” (and importantly, want) to spend time doing some leisure things – spending time with Cameron, and the dogs, and fixing up the yard and the house, etc.

I heard this sermon a few years ago, about looking at our calendar through a spiritual lens... not surprisingly, the big conclusion is to find a purpose in life and do things with that purpose in mind. Then the frenzied activity goes away, or at least feels rewarding rather than frenzied since it's all in service of the grand purpose.

Ok, but I still want to write this string quartet music that rocks. Is that my grand purpose? I don't think so, but maybe writing and playing music is... in as much as it serves a grand purpose like inspiring others or somehow expressing the inexpressible, you know, like music can do sometimes... or maybe it's more about allowing music to create the opportunity for people to come together and simply have a shared experience – one that may occasionally be a moving experience? I think I learned a little bit about that playing with Joe last May. He seems really clear about his purpose - which I interpreted as being all about bringing people together. And that meets the Henry Moore test as mentioned in that sermon I linked to, about having a purpose that is totally impossible. It is definitely getting harder and harder to bring a group of people together for any kind of shared experience. (And I'm part of the problem here... I'd much rather stay home and watch TV with Cameron and the puppies than go out and do something with people – hey wait a second, I hate people. I've been using the “so so so fun test” to say no to all kinds of activities; if it's not going to be so so so fun, then I'd rather just stay home. I haven't found much that passes the “so so so fun test.”)

Even with that aside, so let's say we're close to my grand purpose – to use my creativity to create something that brings people together for some kind of special experience (let's pretend I find a way to get over the fact that, in general, I hate people). Or something like that. Now what about the money? Am I just too chicken to really take the leap and live my purpose because I don't know how the money can possibly work out? I tried it for the first five months of this year – I wasn't doing very much in the way of unrelated day-jobs, and I wound up broke without much in the way of future earnings on the horizon, so I headed for the temp agency. So now what?


jen said...

i have a lot of opinions about this and started to write a super long comment, but i'm not going to do this on a blog.

long story short, i disagree with a lot of your basic premises, including your so fun test. i'm all for prioritizing but i don't think test prioritizes well.

one note: the only person i know who makes a living off of his music spent nearly a decade going to "not so so so fun" events several times a week to network (of course, this was only one of the many things he did to make that happen). i know for a fact he would have rather stayed home. he did it, i believe, because when one is truly inspired to achieve something, one will ungrudgingly, or even happily, do what is necessary to accomplish that goal. as you know, when you are doing what you "think you should do" -- rather than what you are inspired to do -- there is a lot more suffering involved.

another note: you need to figure something out and accept the consequences of whatever you decide. ongoing angst about this is not a viable option.

Alex said...

We share very a very similar sense of angst, Jon! But first thing first - there needs to be enough $$ in the mix to meet your monthly expenses. If you can't pay the rent/mortgage, health insurance, etc., nothing else really matters. It's just that simple. So accounting may not make you all sparkly, but if you have a temp gig that can be flexible, by for instance expanding and contracting as needed (2 weeks on, one off so you can do music), AND allows a little down time in which you could actually do things like format parts or add your shows to myspace....honestly that doesn't sound so bad.

Once you have figured out how much you need to work for the Man, then the thing is prioritizing what needs to happen in your musical life. It may not all fit (if you want to sleep, that is), so figure out what is most important to you. Obviously you have a string quartet to write, and then fit in whatever publicity is absolutely necessary for that upcoming show.

If you haven't read this article already, it might provide a bit of comfort, if only knowing that LOTS of folks our age go through this sorta thing.

Jon Morris (Matis) said...


that's funny... i had read the NMB article you mentioned...
thanks for the kind words and support! for what it's worth, i feel much better this week than i did last week.
i think the next step in my "learning to say 'no' " therapy is saying no to most of my to-do list. most of that stuff can simply go away and no one will care. especially the publicity and promotional stuff... i am taking a fresh look at the things i think i have to do -- most of them don't have to be done at all!! how refreshing!