You call your book “An Absorbing Errand.” How come?

Isn’t it a great title? I stole it from Henry James. But the concept is wonderful. One of James’s characters claims that the only way to have true happiness is to have an absorbing errand – something that takes you outside of yourself and keeps you there. I think James means that your life is made much better if you’re engaged in something purposeful – like an art form or serious craft –  that gives you a lens through which to approach the world. So, if you’re a wood worker, you have a reason to look closely at the work of all the other wood workers who came before you. You might decide you need to visit lots of houses, or workshops, or other countries, just to see different pieces of furniture. And you’ll need to learn about and acquire various tools, and you might have to take classes or apprentice yourself, and befriend other woodworkers. Before long, trees will have huge new meaning to you. You suddenly have a rich way to enjoy life. And more than that, you have a reason to engage the world – to go outside yourself.

Artists seek to express deep emotions, and to capture what feels alive and vivid to them. And even without mania, much of art’s energy is sexual. Or, as the quotation attributed to Renoir succinctly put it, “I paint with my penis”.  One rarely hears women exclaiming anatomical equivalencies, but there’s little doubt that the silence does not negate the sensation. Aroused sexuality may stimulate creativity; intellectual and creative excitement may expand into seductive excitement, and both may boil over in messy ways. Furthermore, highly energetic, ambitious artists may possess large egos and large sexual appetites that want feeding.