I stumbled across this post randomly.

Just as when reading Adam deVille discussing late stage capitalism, I am not totally sure if “neoliberalism” is quite the right term for what King-Smith describes, but she certainly captures perfectly a certain pseudo-toughness many writers and literary folk affect that masks a sense of powerlessness:

 

This ideology dominates the publishing/writing ‘industry’ at present (as well as many other arts ‘industries’ and the entertainment industry, generally), where it manifests in many ways, including:

  1. Writers are nearly always defined as individuals, not movements or collectives (if they are collectives, they are rarely taken seriously). Publishers are always looking for the next best seller. Often books that are frivolous novelty items sell better than books that explore the deeper dimensions to society and subjectivity. Writers are no longer nurtured and developed by publishers over time to develop a mature and sophisticated body of work. There’s less capacity in the current publishing industry to subsidise important books that don’t sell in high quantities.
  1. Writers and other artists are always expected to be in competition with each other for the limited paid publishing opportunities available. Writers are told they have to be thick skinned, determined, tenacious and prepared to sell themselves. Writers are told to develop two personalities – a business self and writing self. NOTE: Many mainstream representations of creativity involve competitions of some sort e.g. shows like The Voice, X-factor, So You Think You Can Dance, etc.. Even cooking, which should be a way for people to come together and connect, is now depicted in competitive terms (e.g. Masterchef, MKR, etc.). We consume our culture in the form of competitive battles. Therefore, as a writer, if you aren’t successful, it is because you are not competitive or driven enough.
  1. A writer’s success is largely measured in terms of whether they make money or not. Now, I’m not saying that making a living isn’t important, but the vast majority of writers don’t make a living and for those that do, it’s usually pretty paltry. To measure our success by these terms means most writers feel like failures – even if their work is innovative, beautifully-crafted and says important things about the world

Most writers wear this paradigm and I think it makes us feel very powerless.

Of course, to a certain degree this pseudo-toughness on the part of literary agent is also a defence against being bombarded with not very good work.

My impression is that in the last 20 years or so literary types have become afraid to express anything that even smacks of Romanticism – or indeed a sense of vocation – about what they do. This manifests itself in this kind of rhetoric about “the industry” and a valuing of external achievements – this hypercompetitiveness indeed does deserve some kind of label. But is neoliberalism quite the mot juste? King-Smith’s article is worth reading in full.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

“the enemy of creativity in the world today is that so much thinking is done for you” = J G Ballard on Creativity

A while back I reposted an essay I wrote on Nthposition.com (which is now offline) in which featured a quote from J G Ballard:

“Cyril Connolly said that the greatest enemy of creativity is the pram in the hall, but I think he was completely wrong. It was the enemy of a certain kind of dilettante life that he aspired to, the man of letters, but for the real novelist the pram in the hall is the greatest ally – it brings you up sharp and you realise what reality is all about.”

In the essay I cited as the source my paperback edition of Ballard’s Kingdom Come, but in fact Ballard’s thoughts on creativity were originally in The Observer of September 22nd 2002. Here is the essay in full:

I think the enemy of creativity in the world today is that so much thinking is done for you. The environment is so full of television, party political broadcasts and advertising campaigns, you hardly need to do anything. We’re just drowning under manufactured fiction, which satisfies our need for fiction – you scarcely need to go and read a novel.

Cyril Connolly, the 50s critic and writer, said that the greatest enemy of creativity is the pram in the hall, but I think that was completely wrong. It was the enemy of a certain kind of dilettante life that he aspired to, the man of letters, but for the real novelist the pram in the hall is the greatest ally – it brings you up sharp and you realise what reality is all about. My children were a huge inspiration for me. Watching three young minds creating their separate worlds was a very enriching experience.

For most of my working life as a professional, which began over 40 years ago, what kick-started the day was a large scotch and soda. After my wife died, I was bringing up my children on my own much of the time: getting them up and to school and finding their satchels, all that sort of thing, and I needed a sort of change of climate. I used to find that a couple of large scotches did the trick – it created a different microclimate inside my head.

I find the imaginative pressure has always been strong, thank god. I’ve always felt that I had this message I had to bring the reader – a deluded notion, I’m sure, but it’s kept me going. I’ve also always been a very disciplined writer, because that’s the only way you ever get anything done. Usually when I’m writing a novel I set myself 1,000 words a day, and I stick to it religiously. I sometimes stop in the middle of a sentence, which isn’t a bad idea, as the next day it’s very easy to get back into it.

As for learning to be creative, I think there’s a lot of basic-level storytelling skills that you need to be born with. I wrote from a pretty early age, eight or nine, and I’ve always had a very vivid imagination. If you’ve got a strong imagination it’s there all the time, it’s working away. You’re kind of remaking the world as you walk down a street, sort of reinventing it. I have a walk every day and a good think about things. I sometimes think maybe this town is a complete conspiracy, or maybe it’s a very advanced kind of psychological experiment – all these ideas occur to me and every now and again I think: ‘Hey, that’s not bad. That’s worth pursuing.’