The Creative Dilemma

Observatory, The Arts

Samuel Beckett was once asked what he had given up for his art. He replied; ‘I have fairly often not gone to parties.’ EM Forster was asked why his output of novels hadn’t been greater and he replied; ‘I would have written more if I hadn’t gone out so much.’
Watching the movie ‘Nine’ made me think about the creative dilemma. I saw the play years ago, and it led me to reading about Federico Fellini and Luis Bunuel, both of whom traded away stability in the personal lives in order to continue with artistic creation. Now, I’m just a ‘popular’ writer, but it seems there are sacrifices to be made by everyone in the pursuance of a vocation. I upset parts of my family by writing ‘Paperboy’, but I wouldn’t have changed it. The question that must occur to everyone is – how do you strike a balance between your work and your life? And can you even makes such changes yourself? I ask because I’m writing a non-fiction book about the creative process and how it affects people. All thoughts appreciated.

7 comments on “The Creative Dilemma”

  1. Steve says:

    Life interrupts art.

    I’m sure that’s ironic in some fashion but that’s not the point I’m making.
    Inspiration has to be allowed to flow and when you’re in the middle of a creative surge, you can positively expect everyone and everything to want your immediate attention. Some of this can be easily dealt with – turn off the mobile, disconnect from the net, don’t answer the door and so on. Significant others are a bit more difficult but if they’re supportive they’ll know not to interrupt. The creative impulse doesn’t seem to pay much attention to clocks and calendars, and that can create problems. What a creative artist of any stripe needs are people in his/her life who accept and do not feel threatened by the artist’s needs. Sometimes that includes the pursuit of an idea for 8 hours non-stop and other similar bizarre behaviors. And it’s also up to the artist to do what’s necessary to make the important people in his/her life feel important – without compromising artistic integrity. Tough to do, but it has to be done unless you intend to let your art entirely swallow your life – or your life entirely swallow your art.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it.

  2. I.A.M. says:

    Absolutely true, Steve.

    If the artist cannot make their partner either not feel threatened by lack of attention, or not make them feel important, or neither (the ideal is both of them being possible, obviously), then a life of solitary existence is the only result for the serving of the artistic creative temperament.

    Presuming, obviously, that the artist is bound and determined to pursue their art to the exclusion of relationships, assured cash flow, social life, shelter, cothing, food…

    Think I’ll lie down and weep now…

  3. I.A.M. says:

    Oh, and Brunel… that’s Isembard Kingdom’s brother, isn’t it?

  4. Steve says:

    Tears and Art…….kind of go together in many ways.

    Not that I’m suggesting we label the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as they apply to artists……Tart……………or anything………

  5. What makes you think it’s a matter of choice, anyway? Doesn’t the quandary resolve itself, for good or ill, according to how one feels about what’s important at any given moment?

    (And I.A.M.: funny you should mention IKB, because I’ve just read Tony Pollard’s The Minutes of the Lazarus Club and I’ve finally resolved the seeming contradiction between the builder of the Clifton Suspension bridge being Brunel with an “n”, while I had this dim but tenacious memory of an “m” in the name of the character Stewart Granger played in that old movie where he invented pants. Gee, I’d always thought they were the same guy.)

  6. Steve says:

    Yes, it does resolve itself. Batting it about like this is little more than an intellectual exercise.

  7. I.A.M. says:

    I think the real hope of any artist (no matter their field) is that the person who shares their life understands that no matter how important they are to the artist, they always come second to the work.

    Or can anyway.

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