Janna Malamud Smith is a writer and psychotherapist. Her books include Private Matters (1997), A Potent Spell (2003), and My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud (2006).
Her new book is An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery.
From the author's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:
Why call art an errand? Can you talk about that?Learn more about the book and author at Janna Malamud Smith's website.
Actually, it's not simply an errand, but an absorbing errand. isn't that a great phrase? It's from an early Henry James novel. Here's the quotation: "True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one's self, but the point is not only to get out - you must stay out and to stay out you must have some absorbing errand” In my book I suggest that life is more meaningful for many of us when we pursue an absorbing errand – like writing, painting, playing an instrument, or mastering some complex craft; and I explore the emotions that interfere with people’s ability to stay with the process long enough to get good at what they do. While we think of art making as introspective, and it certainly is, it also pulls us outside ourselves toward the world. It gives us a way to possess the world – thus it becomes an absorbing errand.
Why do you think creative work can be so much more frustrating and shame-filled than any other kind of profession?
I’m not positive we have the corner on frustration and shame. People from other professions might want to weigh in – sex workers, candidates for elected office, clerks at convenience stores? That said, I think the reason shame is so at the heart of art-making is that it...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: An Absorbing Errand.