More than pen on paper

Creativity and professionalism… it’s a dynamic I struggle with.

It’s been a long time since I could just designate some hours each day to sit down and produce fiction. I know a number of professional authors who are able to do this, but it defeats me. I ran out of things from my own life and psyche to mine long ago, I ran out of personal fantasies and daydreams to turn into books, and as I favour the kinds of books that have a lot of ideas in them, I need to find the ideas in order to be able to write.

For there to be stories, I need time when my head isn’t busy with more important things. I need time to reflect and wonder, and I need things to reflect on and wonder about. I benefit (when I can manage it) from being able to access a creative community and benefit from the inspiration of others.

I think this is true of most creative forms. If you aren’t intent on producing the same thing over and over, something has to come in. The flow can’t be forever outwards. Creative people also need the time to find out what other creative people are doing – not just to be inspired and influenced, but to be part of something that is more than a lonely self chipping away at it in a garret with no idea whether there’s an audience at the end.

Too much attention to the audience and you’ll lose your individuality, your vision and your dreams. Too little attention to what the audience wants and you won’t be able to pay the bills. Dedicate yourself, heart and soul to being the best artist you possibly can, and you might not be able to pay the bills. Dedicate yourself to being commercial and your inspiration can dry up, and it still doesn’t guarantee that you can pay the bills.

When inspiration is shared, it flows. The romantic image of the lone genius doesn’t work well as a practical reality. It doesn’t work for most of us as a creative reality, either.

The whole setup is mad. At the top end, creators and performers can earn outrageous amounts of money. People at the bottom end and just starting out tend to earn nothing. The majority of creators are closer to ‘nothing’ than wild success. Most of us rely on other people’s creativity for our leisure time, but compare what we pay for an app with what we pay for a computer game, and compare that to a book, or the likelihood of spending the same money on a piece of art. The internet is full of free music, but it isn’t full of people asking how musicians are supposed to keep creating on those terms.

We have a culture structured around work and pay. How different it would be if we had a culture structured around making sure we all had enough, and that we all had access to inspiring, enriching things, and we all had time and space to be creative in whatever form appeals to us.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “More than pen on paper

  • Mags MacKean

    This posting Nemue is so relevant (reassuringly so) as a conundrum I face as a Creative, and as part of my community of Creatives. We share this dilemma often. Down time – and the inner space which depends on it – is crucial for my creativity to percolate and become open to inspiration. To be able to access new ideas, I have to be spacious in myself, and clear my diary of ‘to do’ lists and appointments, including scaling down social ones. When my mind is forward planning, structuring time and output around necessary livelihood-generating commitments, it’s as if I employ the left side of my brain. That part of me draws on my more extroverted nature – which doesn’t and can’t access my unconscious resources. Those hidden recesses demand daydreaming, ‘being time’, to be present and available to fresh impulse and unforeseen influence – the very creative fodder you’re describing. It’s good to name this challenge – to recognise it as a very real modern contradiction as everyday people with responsibilities and longings to meet our Muse, as little and often as we can make possible.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Part of it is we don’t often give the creative arts a real value or consider them important despite the act that they are a main part of creating a livable culture. That leads to not being willing to pay a living wage to those that create our art, literature, movies plays. Without that support we forces our artists for financial reason to copy what is popular at the moment, but ill the chance of creating something new that might be the next big step i the growth of the art. Look at the great periods of art and literature in the past. Always there had to be someone providing support, or most of the great art sculpture, plays, architecture, and literature would never have happened.

    We underestimate the value of artistic endeavours. For instance learning to play a musical instrument can help develop mathematical skills. Learning to sing, or doing a play can build self confidence and allow the person to try being different people and in the process discover who they really are. Beautiful places cause people to act different that ugly or trashed places do. Things that function because of good design make living less of a struggle. Anyone that has gotten lost in a book knows the difference in a good story, not only in what you enjoy, but how it may change your way of viewing things, and to see other possibilities outside of your own experience.

    Money is not the only measure of value, but you are not going to get art, and literature, if the artist, and author cannot pay their bills and have to do something else in order to survive. Somehow I just don’t see many great concerts music coming out of working long hours at McDonald’s.

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