“I dress up a certain way because I respect the music.” Wynton Marsalis
Like many of you did as you were starting out, I write in the evenings and on weekends. My day job is in hospitality; I work in business development for a high service meeting center. Clients come to us to hold key meetings and trainings free from interruption, and expect of us a superior level of attention. “Everything communicates,” our Director of Operations is fond of saying as he straightens up a messy cafe or instructs a new employee on where to stand during the lunch service (don’t turn your back to the clients). We teach our staff that respect is not one grand gesture, but rather an accumulation of interactions throughout the client’s visit with us.
Because respect is such a focus in my daily life, my heart sank when I came across the Wynton Marsalis quote above. Each night I ask myself if I did the work that needed doing, asking if I put in sufficient time on my writing. Never once have I stopped to consider whether I showed the writing sufficient respect.
Take a quick look at the desk where I do my writing; survey the pile of mail atop my reference books, the broken pieces of jewelry needing fixing; look at my distraction-laden computer desktop, an open browser with eight tabs, email and Twitter notifications popping up ever few minutes. My intentions are pure but my attention is pitifully divided.
Apply the standard I use in my day job—the accumulation of every tiny interaction—and it’s clear I’m not affording writing the respect it deserves. That, in turn, acts as an unnecessary drain on energy and attention, and frames the time I spend on my craft in a negative light. It is not a recipe for becoming prolific, brilliant, and healthy over the long term.
All week I’ve been noodling over how I show respect to the craft that is dearly important to me. I want, after all, to be better than the average creative, and I want to earn it. I wrote down a pair of commitments:
- Time: I will show up to my writing sessions on time, as I do for meetings with my boss. Not ten minutes late, as I do for a casual lunch with friends.
- Terminology: I will not degrade my own writing. So often I read over something I’ve just written and declare, “This sucks!” (or some other colorful terminology). I would never use such words to describe a colleague’s work.
How can you better communicate respect for your craft? Perhaps it’s a commitment to keep your tools in proper condition, or like Wynton, to dress to match your level of professionalism. Please share your thoughts below in the comments.
Image credit: Luz Adriana Vila A. (Flickr)