At Last! the Perfect Metaphor

Last month I wrote about my “working metaphor” for my creative and orderly sides: the Governess and the Jester.
I even managed to persuade myself that it didn’t matter that the two metaphors didn’t go together.

Until now.

As much as I like the idea of the Governess as the orderly, organizing side, a better metaphor has appeared – best of all, it goes with the Jester. (Pause for geeky metaphor happiness.) May I present: the Steward.

The Housekeeper - Nicolaes Maes

Not a steward of the turf or a male flight attendant, but an upper servant who is entrusted by his monarch or master with the management of the household or estate. (Also called a castellan, chamberlain, seneschal, estate manager or agent.)

The Steward does not manage the resources available to him for his own benefit, but for the benefit of his master – whether his master’s looking or not. He has authority, but he receives it, as he receives all things, from his master.

A Steward is a failure if he forgets that his authority is derived from his master’s, and starts to believe that the resources he manages are really his. Exhibit A: Malvolio.

Predictably, he makes a fool of himself.

But how does this relate to writing? The ability to write well is a gift – a talent, to quote the story of the three stewards. I didn’t give it to myself. All I can do is use it and improve on it as best I can, like a gardener who cultivates the earth to make it productive. As Leland Ryken says, “Since God is the one who calls people to their work, the worker becomes a steward who serves God”.

So here they are: the Steward and the Jester, each with a padlock about their neck to remind them of the master in whose service they find themselves. The one is a careful and diligent manager; the other is a carefree and happy-go-lucky creator – but they both work for the approval of the same Master.

Davidson The Court Jester

I Also Am a Steward

Georges Seurat - Le jardinier

“The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”
Gandalf to Denethor, Steward of Gondor, in The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien