Rendered Fat Content


Theo van Doesburg: Neo-Plasticism: Composition VII [The Three Graces] (1917)
" … my bane as well as my refuge."

My daily Authoring essays have become something of status updates, a widely-abused and misunderstood art form. Back when I managed projects, I thrived or suffocated on the quality of my status reports, so much so that I might have spent the bulk of my time strolling around, visiting with project community members, gathering their impressions of where we were, where our project might be located in space and time. These were Blind Men and the Elephant excursions where each witness testified to often wildly different perspectives. One might be way ahead of where the schedule predicted where they'd be while others reported falling further behind. My job was seemingly to cobble together all these divergent perspectives to report where the effort really sat. These reports were, as a rule, works of fiction intended to keep the sponsoring and managing authorities out of the project's underpants so that we might continue working. Too much of a scent of trouble might incite an inquisition, a review featuring Fundamentally Unanswerable Questions and project managers like me, chartered to provide reassuring answers. Few events were ever more disruptive than helpful inquisitions.

Senior management would issue their own reassurances following the review so that things might return to their smooth-appearing operation again.
I'd continue visiting with community members, listening to their stories, and the project would go back to working about as well as it ever had worked. I much preferred the middle of the effort, periods before any real completion loomed, because endings always seemed sort of terminal to me. I'm not the type to gain a sense of accomplishment from finishing something. I more often stumble away feeling as if something once important to me has gone away, or, more properly, been rudely taken away from me, mystery resolved, potential dissolved, period, end of paragraph, end of story #30. I'd spend some time in mourning for the good old days before we'd accomplished anything, when the world was filled with hopeful if still abstract aspiring. While some seemed to speed up when approaching a finish line, I tended to slow down and try to prolong the effort a bit, recognizing that once we'd finished, we'd never have that effort to attempt to accomplish together again. We'd be finished in more ways than one.

My favorite part of project work was always the beginnings, the envisioning and chartering, the expectation-setting. That part of the effort doesn't usually have a deadline looming or a reconning impending. It's still running on good intentions, a hope-filled intervention. Later, its ambiguities would complicate it and its status reporting grow increasingly fictional, but at the beginning, anything was still possible. The sky hardly designated the limit, for it seemed much more expansive than that. Later, we'd have narrowed down potential into something seeming more reasonable and we would have brought the whole effort to ground, perhaps even burrowing down to anchor results in bedrock. By then, of course, we'd have actually produced something and find ourselves just about worked out of our jobs. Once completed, the whole once-enlivening effort more easily appeared as another Enhollowing project, its lasting purpose being the feeling it left behind when it finished.

The sun's a little beyond the yardarm on this Authoring effort and I see the edges of it closing in. As much as I might want to provide glowing daily status reports featuring evidence of great progress, if I was honest, I'd say something else. I'd report a certain Enhollowing settling in, a hesitance to gain complete closure lest the resulting vacuum suffocate me. I'm dragging my feet and dreading rather than actually completing what I started. I've been diligently peeling back layers of an authentic onion of an objective and I sense a completion coming within my reach. I've slowed my cadence while my well-rehearsed Learned Helplessness kicks in. I do not want this Authoring effort to end. It's become my bane as well as my refuge. I'm praying that this report doesn't spark a helpful inquisition.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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