“But, B.B., I think we should never be too pessimistic about what we know we have done well, because we should have some reward, and the only reward is that which is within us...publishing, admiration, adulation...are all worthless”.
The words of Ernest Hemingway in his 1954 letter to Bernard Berenson are echoed by the Zen Master Osho. Creativity is the inner attribute of working with joy. In whatever one does, Osho continues, one must be uncaring of whether history, or even other people, take account of what one has done. Fame, and the desire for fame or reward, should not be a consideration if one wants to be truly creative. The fulfilment one finds in what one is doing lies in the task itself: any act of creation must be completed for the simple joy of having done it.
My business training has made me firmly goal oriented. One of the most difficult transitions I’ve had to make from accountant to author has been to stop emphasising the financial and other rewards of writing and to allow my unique creative voice – or Muse – to flow freely through me.
A while ago, I was faced with a difficult choice. I had been concentrating on genre fiction as a (relatively) easy route to getting published. My creative thought processes were part of a logical strategy: 1. learn how to write genre fiction; 2. get published as genre author; 3. earn money; 4. continue to earn money from genre writing while writing what I really wanted to write on the side.
After writing five full novels, I came very close to being published in genre fiction. I worked with an editor at a large publishing house in the United Kingdom on completely rewriting two of these five manuscripts; both rewrites were ultimately rejected. The second rejection was a turning point for me as it raised many doubts in my mind. Did I continue to write genre fiction? Was my voice really suited to genre writing? And, if I did continue with genre writing, when was I ever going to get to the point of earning enough money to be able to write what I really wanted to write?
According to John Gardner, this mercenary drive probably had its roots in the guilt and shame at being financially dependent on my spouse while trying to establish myself in an artistic field in which the financial rewards are notoriously elusive. However, Gardner continues, for the unpublished author to reach her full creative potential she should remove the added pressure of dependency by learning to accept that financial dependence on a generous spouse-as-patron is not only God’s bounty, but also an excellent survival tactic. It then becomes the author’s responsibility to honour this bounty, this gift from her spouse, by doing everything in her power to write to the best of her artistic ability.
Paul R. Givens, in his article “Identifying and Encouraging Creative Processes”, states that it’s imperative that creative people do not continually find themselves in ambivalent situations, caught between the call of multiple goals. To foster creativity, a choice must be made. And so, at this critical point in my writing life, I was faced with difficult questions.
Did I continue to write genre fiction? By writing for the joint rewards of fame and fortune as a genre writer, was I honouring the generosity of my husband-as-patron? Did I put behind me all the experience I’d gained in writing genre fiction and start again as a beginner? In my journey towards becoming An Author, which god was I to worship: Mammon or Apollo?
I chose Apollo. And my writing is now my joy.
References: Phillips, Larry W.(Editor). 1986. Ernst Hemingway on Writing. Grafton Books. London, United Kingdom. Pp. 104. Osho. 1999. Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within. St Martins Press. New York, United States of America. Paragraph summarised from Pp. 91-107. Gardner, John. 1983. On Becoming a Novelist. Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. New York, United States of America. Pp. 117-118. The Journal of Higher Education Vol XXXIII No 6 June, 1962, Pp. 295-301.