The Doing or The Thing

Lauren Camp spent the month of August 2022 as the astronomer-in-residence at Grand Canyon National Park, where she spent a lot of time in the dark, writing, and writing in the dark. Photograph by Lauren Camp.
By Charlotte Jusinski

I forget who asked me first, or when, but the question has stuck with me for years: Do you like the doing or the thing?

It’s intended to be asked of artsy types, and generally translates to: When you make your art, do you like the process, or do you like the end result? I asked it of New Mexico Poet Laureate Lauren Camp in our interview featured in this issue. Her answer was the polar opposite of mine, and yet she’s still one of my favorite people—which is why poets should run the world. But, I digress.

I love this question because it says a lot about what an artist values. Someone who likes the doing might be a bit introverted, or otherwise might enjoy the solitude that is practicing their craft alone under a bare bulb in a studio or next to a cup of tea and an open notebook. (Might be; of course, there are plenty of other ways that could go.)

For me, I like the thing. I like having something to show for my hard work. (And, as all artists know, even if it is quite fun, it is indeed hard work.) As a poet, I love having a poem at the end of all that writing anguish. I absolutely love poems. I only write and edit so that I can have that final thing, that acorn of beauty, that poem. Maybe it’s because I’m extroverted; I want to share it. I want people to see it. I want it to be read and known and considered, and then I want to talk about it all day. And then I want to do it all over again.

This attitude carries over to this magazine. I like the thing. I love that, four times a year, I get to hold an actual paper magazine in my hands, and that the thing is absolutely beautiful. (Shout-out to El Palacio’s graphic design team for that consistent outcome.) I love when people interact with me after reading, when they ask for more copies, when new subscribers come out of the woodwork because they saw it on a friend’s coffee table. I love sharing what we have made.

The flip side of that coin, however, is that the doing is… well, rough sometimes. (Apologies to my closest cohorts, who have to bear the brunt of this roughness.) I’m definitely one of those angsty people who pulls her hair out the entire time this puppy is getting put together, all the way until the last five minutes before the whole thing is shipped to the printer. (Those last five minutes are usually spent in a comatose state, but hey, at least I’m not pulling my hair out.) It’s all part of the gig, sure, and I’ll do it as much and for as long as I have to, but it’s not my favorite part. Not by far.

No, my favorite part is where we’re at right now—when you’re either holding this beautiful glossy paper in your hands, or admiring our website full of 109 years of New Mexico history. And this last part makes it absolutely worth it every single time. When I’m in the worst of it and nothing seems to be going right, I just think, In a couple months, I’ll have a magazine. And that keeps me going.

Thanks for reading our final product, our thing. The doing is always a bit of a rodeo, but seeing how incredible it comes out every single time, I’d never dream of having it any other way. Hopefully you wouldn’t either. And maybe drop me a line sometime to let me know—do you like the doing or the thing?