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.