Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yeoman's Work

Back when I worked at Marvel Comics, I was introduced to the concept of yeoman's work by my boss, editor Nel Yomtov. He always talked about writers and pencillers and inkers who put in a hard day's work with deep respect.

So I'm intrigued and a bit inspired (and confused!) by this interview with Henry Rollins in Time Out Magazine from January 31, 2011. Henry Rollins, punk performer extraordinaire (and major teenage crush material) has turned 50 (fifty!), and he talks about creativity, or his lack thereof.

I have to say, I honestly believe that 99% of life is just showing up. Keep showing up, Henry.

Image: Chapman Baehler

Are you still feeling restless? What’s next for Mr. Henry Rollins?

I’m not artistic nor am I all that creative. I’m more reactive to things. With Nick [Cave], he is a creative person. He’s brilliant that way. I’m not. I’ve got nothing like that. I’m kind of a hack. Or I’m workmanlike. And that’s no bad place to be—it's just different. I say yes to opportunity. I come from the minimum wage working world of the late ’70s, early ’80s. That’s what I know. I know a time clock, a boss and repetitive work. With the talking shows, I have a point of view; I want to tell a story. I am one of those awful hams who would pay you to let me be onstage. I don’t think I am an artist or I am creative. And so when you ask me is there anything else you’d like to do, I don’t know, what do you got.


Beth Tondreau said...

Rollins may possibly protesting a bit too much, but I admire his honest self-assessment. Nel Yomtov (what a great name; seems like an anagram) was right to respect work "performed or rendered in a loyal, valiant, useful, or workmanlike manner."* Being useful and valiant are two pretty great attributes even if they're not in the same slightly upper class as visionary. But, Rollins is even cooler in my book for knowing himself, knowing his strengths—and, of course, toying with us a little.

I agree you have to show up but I'd take it a bit farther and say you have to keep aspiring.

Love the photo.

*Random House Dicionary.

Suzanne Dell'Orto said...

Oh yeah, you can't just show up and take a nap! The beauty of the yeoman is that their work becomes craft, and that definitely is worthy of respect.

At Marvel, especially working for Nel (one of the nicest guys in the business, and yes, one with a great name!), we hired a lot of terrifically talented artists who also had the ability to get the job done.

There were plenty of great artists who just couldn't provide work on professionally or in a timely manner (or both), and, as in many professions, there were also a lot of hacks!

But what I distinctly remember about many of the old-time guys (yes, only guys), was the beauty of the their work and their economy of line.

Beth Tondreau said...

More on showing up, taken from a NYT article by Natalie Angier about Natalie Portman and science.

"If anything, stories like Ms. Portman’s show that great success, like DNA, is constructed of a few basic building blocks: tenacity, focus, and the old Woody Allen line about just showing up. "