The Project (with a capital P).
August 9, 2014 § 6 Comments
I remember my mother sitting on the couch, night after night.
Between glances at the TV show the rest of us were watching intently she did needle point, stitching reproductions of motifs from the medieval Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
Stitch after stitch, sitcom after sitcom, she worked.
When all six labor-intensive pieces of needlework were done, my grandfather stretched them, painstakingly, over the chair seats at our dining room table—then covered them with plastic, which took away a little of that Medieval quality.
But he had seen the work that had gone into giving us something to sit on that would ennoble the usual beef and mashed potatoes of Sunday dinner.
My mother’s needlepoint had some of the qualities of a Project: it required time and dedication, but some of the essentials were missing.
A Project worthy of that capital P involves the risk of failure–often spectacular failure.
Although the goal of carving portraits into a mountain didn’t originate with the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, it quickly became his. He chose the presidents depicted and the site. Facing southeast, Rushmore had full sun exposure—no one would miss a failure or success as grand as the one he was contemplating.
It is now impossible to tell that the original carving of Jefferson was on Washington’s right.
The portrait was partially done when Borglum’s crew hit rotten rock.
The first attempt at Jefferson had to be dynamited.
The third president now peers over Washington’s left shoulder. Of course he does. We see the carving on Mt. Rushmore depicted in this photo as something unchanging, eternal, and irrevocable.
That’s another quality of a Project. If it is successful it seems as if its existence and success were inevitable.A Project outgrows the effort that created it.
The scale and grandeur of the portraits on Mount Rushmore have rendered irrelevant all the sweat and doubt and improvisation the work required, along with its ephemeral creator.
Mount Rushmore simply is.
Few people carve a mountain, point the bow of a vessel toward an undiscovered continent, or create a machine that takes humanity off horseback and puts it on wheels, but we all have projects.
And if we are daring enough and lucky enough we have Projects.
My first novel was a Project. It began with the decision to get up every morning at 4:30 am to write, a time when no job or family member wanted a thing from me. I wrote while the rest of the world slept.
Morning after morning, with no idea what I was doing I wrote and wrote and wrote.
And one day, it was done.
That is another essential trait of Projects. They end. Those that go on and on have become Institutions and are usually carried on by someone other than the dreamer who launched them.
After twelve sleep-deprived years, I had a book, or, more cynically, a stack of pages with 120,000 words typed on them. As a book those pages never saw the light of publication. But a Project, whether it succeeds of fails, spans time and colors it. Those were the years of “The Polar Bear Club.”
And at the end of that first novel I was different. I was a writer.
I am working on my fifteenth novel. Although none have been easy, that first book wore the path smooth. That book was my Project. And the writer I became was the Project of the book.
A Project changes the one who undertakes it and creates something that stands alone; the work itself.
You can be assigned a Project, but most are chosen by the heart because the odds are long, the chances of falling by the wayside great.
The spark of commitment has to come from an idea so compelling it gets you out of bed, maybe even calls your sanity into question.
If you have a Project be grateful. It will test and try you and as you strain to do the near-impossible it will remind you that life is a meaningful enterprise.
Succeed or fail, you will have done your part if you take your best shot.
Right now my singing partner, Craig Reeder, and I are making a CD of original songs.
We trek down to the From the Heart Studio in Sopchoppy and sing and play as well as we can—and sometimes better than we can.
When we are done someone else will judge our success or failure, but right now we are incandescent with the effort.
Man, do we ever have a Project.
Note: Have a project? Please share it in a comment.