What's Up With Craig?
A BLOG THAT DRIFTS INTO HIGH ART,
LOW HUMOR, and RANDOM OBSERVATIONS
OF THE WRITING LIFE
Photo by Casey Page
The title here is paraphrased from something I saw on LinkedIn. (For a whole different view of how I spend my days, hit me up over there.)
It resonated for a couple of reasons. One, it was a different wording of an old concept, and that's always appealing. Second, and more important, I was a day removed from a six-hour stretch of standing in front of high school classes and talking to kids about the writing life.
(Quick side note: Whatever your talents, whatever your field(s) of endeavor, I cannot recommend classroom visits highly enough. It's a chance to contribute, to give a teacher a much-needed respite, and to help give shape to students' possibilities beyond the classroom, a time that is coming up on them quickly and for which they're probably not fully prepared.)
During my visit, I would start by introducing myself to each class and saying, yes, I wrote the book you just read (in this case, 600 Hours of Edward, which is on the approved reading list for Billings high schools), but I also do other things.
At the time I wrote 600 Hours, I was a copy editor at the Billings Gazette. Later, I was a pipeline inspection specialist (a fancy title for pig tracker). Still later, I was a senior editor at The Athletic. Now, I'm an analyst for a research firm. I design Montana Quarterly magazine. I take on freelance editing and design gigs that interest me. I write novels and plays and sometimes even poems, although those are mostly bad.
Those are a lot of different things, but they share one key commonality: They're not just ways to make a buck. They are things I do and things I am, and that manner of describing them is something I trot out regularly, because it's such a complete summation. That intrinsic sense of purpose and being keeps me focused through the vicissitudes and drudgeries of a workaday life. That work, whether for a salary or for the variable and uncertain recompense of royalties, can't just be about making a buck, necessary as that is.
I told the classes that, yes, of course, I sometimes find myself wishing I had more time for the creative things I do. But the truth is, I would miss the payments analyst part of my life if I gave it up every bit as much as I'd miss the toil of writing a novel if that fell away from me. It is at this point that I diverge from some of the artists I admire most, who talk about the art-centered life in almost monastic terms. Or maybe I just use a different definition to arrive at the same idea. Art is at the center of my life, in that there would not be a life worth living without it, but it shares that space with myriad other things that constitute who I am and how I engage with the world around me.
So ... the trophy and the game. Some people don't think they've made it until they've made it: until they've reached some perch, garnered some award, ascended to some income bracket, been elevated to some stratosphere. And, in some cases, reaching those levels is the test case for happiness.
I think that puts happiness—a transitory quality anyway—in a narrow, often inaccessible place. The game—the process, if you will—is where the action is. Play the game hard and faithfully, however it's defined, and the trophies have a way of either showing up or making a subtle reveal of themselves as something you never imagined they could be.
Craig Lancaster is an author, an editor, a publication designer, a layabout, a largely frustrated Dallas Mavericks fan, an eater of breakfast, a dreamer of dreams, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle. And most of all, a man who values a T-shirt.
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