Wednesday 11 March 2015

Blocks to Creativity

I am working with an interesting book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It recommends writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing every morning as soon as you wake up. Sadly, this has replaced my habit of listening to Polish every morning as soon as I wake up. The most psychologically binding moments of my day are when I first wake up. That is when I am too groggy to refuse to do something I told myself I would do.

Really, first thing in the morning is a the most crucial hour of my day, and whichever activity gets it, well...gets it.

Naturally the biggest distraction to artistic endeavour is the internet. I try not to gaze into the palantir for as long as possible, but today as soon as I was done my three pages: zoop. To the internet I went. Fortunately, I had some journalism work to do, so I soon dragged my eyes away and got cracking.

Unfortunately the next biggest distraction to artistic endeavour is journalism work. However, if I told you how much money I make through journalism versus how much money I make writing fiction, you would weep.

"I like this novel that you got me," said B.A. of a The New York Times bestseller by a woman who lives near my brother's village. "But you have a better writing style."

"Waaaaaaaah!" I cried. "The New York Times Bestseller List. Waaaaaah!"

And that of course is the next biggest block to artistic endeavour: the feeling that unless hard work brings money, what is the point? I agree, of course, that this is an awful attitude, a condemnation of other very important unpaid work like housework, yard work, volunteer work, motherhood, fatherhood and even aunthood. But all the same, wah!

That is one reason why the writer who should bother with a writing career is someone who can't help writing anyway. But don't get me wrong. A woman who writes entertaining letters every day or few days for twenty years who suddenly decides to write a novel may write a very good and even saleable novel indeed. A man who constantly blogs but decides he wants to write a book about his favourite topic may indeed write a very good and saleable book. The only writer I would dissuade is the kind of writer who does not actually write but wants to become "a writer," just as I would dissuade a singer who never sings from becoming "a singer" or an painter who never paints "a painter."

I would tell them not to BE but to DO. The wistful would-be writer should start a daily diary of observations and conversations. The wannabe singer should start to sing. The painter who never paints should borrow some books about painting from the library and buy some paint. Meanwhile, hopeful future writer, singer and painter should all know that many "creatives" are paid really very badly. Not all--especially not until after twenty years of toil. But those colourful, eccentric clothes that so many artists wear and the funny parties they go to and their gypsy-like collections of belongings are not only the fruit of creativity but of financial poverty.

Don't quit your day job is not always a put down. It is a deep conviction. Too many people quit their day jobs to chase artistic dreams and...Well, they become artists, and that is not the same thing as being happy. Of course, many artists ARE happy, and all of a sudden I have just remember the horrible daubs painted by a retired schoolteacher I once knew. Absolutely horrible. Beyond horror. As was her tasteful sitting-room, the whole new-build house and the subdivision it was in.

What a nightmare.

Still, the impulse to paint was a good one. But I cannot help but think that she would have been a better painter if she had painted her house burning down or, indeed, burnt it down.

Time for my pill.

I think there are three things necessary for doing art--good art:

1. a commitment to truth (which Hilary White links to service of the Real)
2. an anarchic spirit (which leads you to want to rip up, erase and burn down the bad)
3. stubbornness

And now I must run away and get ready for Lindy Hop class. As I have said many many many times, I don't really like dance class. But I am hoping that if I keep going to dance class, I will actually be able to dance with dancers. Meanwhile, I have a soft spot for Big Band music, so listening to it for an hour is not a hideous chore. And tonight's instructors are real artists. Watching them teach is as good as watching them perform in a show.  

Update (Thurs): Despite my manic mood--and indeed I did worry for my sanity when I was slapping on my eye-shadow--I very much enjoyed last night's dance class.  I was much less clumsy than usual, which I put down to A) the excellence of the Patersons, our teachers and B) going to the Beginners' class whenever I go.  I am not sure practice will make perfect, in my case, but it may make passable.


  1. Umm this post felt like it was just getting going when it ended. Where's the rest?!

    (I mean it as a compliment.)

  2. "I try not to gaze into the palantir for as long as possible..."

    AHAHAHAHA! I'm right there with you. Perfect description.

  3. I think I may have stolen it from Hilary White.

    As for the rest of the piece, stay tuned! I didn't have time to write any more. I had to run. And dance class was really great fun.


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