Monday, 17. June 2013 0:01 | Author:Jay Burton
The saw blade is dull. The brushes need cleaning. The chisels need sharpening. The acting workshop gets ditched. The sensor hasn’t been cleaned. The word processing files are jumbled and disorganized. Pencils need sharpening. The monitor calibration is out of date. The act one analysis gets superficial treatment. The desk is cluttered. The studio is filthy. The truck needs cleaning out. The practice session gets skipped. The chemicals are old. The update goes unloaded.
It doesn’t matter what your art is, maintenance is required. Although it may take different forms for individual arts, it’s really all the same thing. It’s the battle against entropy. And we all have to fight it.
But we don’t. Rather, most of us could do a much better job fighting it than we do. Otherwise, we would never say any of those things in the first paragraph, or anything like them. This is just not the case. I know very few artists whose tools, desks, workstations, studios, shops, equipment, minds are all free of clutter and in 100% working condition. There is always that thing that we are going to take care of next week, and then everything will be in top-notch order. Well, except for that one other thing. And so it goes, and next week turns into next month, and sometimes turns into next year.
And then we end up like a photographer friend whose studio background cloth ripped apart in his hands just yesterday. He had known for a while that it was old and fragile and already had a couple of inconsequential rips, but had postponed purchasing a new one, not because he couldn’t afford it, but because it had not presented a significant problem, and because he just didn’t get around to it. And it wasn’t for lack of time; it took him all of 20 minutes to research sites for the best price and make the purchase on the internet.
This is often the case. We know that we have something that needs maintenance, but instead of doing that maintenance—which will require minimal time—we instead develop workarounds. Never mind that the workaround requires three times as much time and/or effort as fixing the problem would take, and that we will work around a problem repeatedly—we still decline to take the time needed to really do the maintenance which would make the workarounds unnecessary.
And why? As far as I can tell, we seem to avoid maintenance for one or more of three reasons: (1) it’s boring; (2) it seems like work; (3) it seems unproductive. All of those things are probably true. Maintenance is not very interesting, and it does seem like work because it’s often not very creative and it is often repetitive, which are the same reasons it feels unproductive. Nothing is being made. It’s just repairing, replacing, refurbishing, and almost unconnected in our minds from doing our art. My friend was lucky in that he had no shoots pending that required the backdrop; otherwise, he would have had to figure out a way of quickly repairing the damaged piece, paying overnight fees to get one flown in on time, or postponing the shoot.
Thus it is with all maintenance. We spend extra time accomplishing a task that would be far less time-consuming if we only had everything in proper working order, all the while telling ourselves that we will get to it—soon. If only we were to go ahead and maintain our tools and environment, we could save enormous time and effort in the long run and, in the meantime, be far more productive.