The ages within a few years of mine, anyway. Terry Teachout muses:
I’m trying to decide how I want to spend the next part (which may, of course, be the last part) of my life. What shall I do once Satchmo at the Waldorf opens in Lenox and the manuscript of Mood Indigo [biography of Duke Ellington] is shipped off to Gotham Books? Should I embark on yet another biography? Ought I to continue working as a critic? Might I want to try my hand at teaching? Is my first venture into playwriting destined to be a one-shot affair? Above all, I long to know the answer to this question: are my energies best spent as a jack-of-all-trades, or has the time come at last for me to direct my fire at a single target?
I’ve never risen to Jack status — at best, I’m the 8 of hearts — but I can appreciate his predicament:
The longer I live, the surer I am that the world was made for specialists, and I’ve always been reluctant to settle into a pigeonhole, however commodious. When I played music, I played many kinds of music on more than one instrument. When I became a critic, I wrote about whatever interested me rather than concentrating on a single medium. When I became a biographer, I jumped from subject to subject (first a journalist, then a choreographer, then a jazzman). No sooner was my first opera libretto produced than I started writing my first play. Yes, it’s been fun, but might I have been better served had I concentrated on one thing? While I don’t think it’s right to call me a dilettante — I’ve aspired to professional standards in everything to which I’ve set my hand — I sometimes wonder whether my reluctance to specialize has kept me from doing as well as I might have done in any of my varied lines of work.
My online persona is the very definition of “reluctance to specialize,” though some people are perfectly happy to characterize it as “versatility,” and who am I to disagree? Then again, this isn’t how I earn my keep, and the day job is specialized to a degree you would not believe. Perhaps I have the best of both worlds — or the worst.