I have been thinking a lot about the workhorse concept and how fiercely I've guarded my amateur status over the years. Before I became fully aware of entropy-related decline and of the financial instability inherent in such an approach, I stubbornly downplayed my abilities. One reason was defensive: I received (what seemed to me) intense notice for my writing gifts through high school and the act of setting pen to paper took on the dimensions of a burden.* I began thinking of art as a competition and I found myself measuring myself against other writers––not the best way of carving out an original path.
Being amateur seemed to me to present several advantages: for one, I could observe more. I got off the literary hook if people pegged me in some non-ambitious category, such as airport limo driver, English teacher in Japan, SEO hack, International Relations graduate student, poker player, tribal flute mendicant. Maintaining a buffer between myself and the financial pressures professional writers experience, which warps what they set on paper, was a core tenet of what I did. Problem was, lacking external pressure, I didn't produce what others recognized as worthy art. I understand this in a way....
I subsequently travelled and experienced a lot of life, becoming aware that, beyond certain grammatical standards, there was no true measure of literary worth. At a certain level, different authors simply had different life experiences to convey. Believability and continuity was not the be-all-end-all that many publishing decision makers made it out to be. Behind every great editing job was a whiff of compromise.
I had discovered literary relativism.
I used that particular tool to defuse the burden of expectation. Not a new trick––I imagine Shakespeare was great, in some ways, because he did not try too hard. The best of his art** has the flow and immediacy of real time creation, is effortless in its multi-layered flow. Sure it has been extensively revised, but not past the ripening point––the essential objective was accomplished while the artist was in the flow, outside of the heavy weight of expectation. Shakespeare's art even has a whiff of the collaborative and that is a concept I am still digesting....***
Re: literary relativism: there is a dividing line between great and inferior art, which vanishes among writers of a certain caliber. You can sense when something is off, not centered in its own specific gravity. But a well-crafted internal universe often goes unnoticed. It is complex, but the ties that bind are organic, not mandated. A sign of gravity done right : I do not rush through the words, I take in every sentence as part of a totality. Narrative developments surprise me and they also fit.****
SEO Alert - Damon Shulenberger (i.e. EnduranceWriter, aka 4HFlute)This is the first in a prospective series of blog posts that I hope will challenge even the half-baked Soylent series.
* Far from bringing joy, literary plaudits are linked in my mind to a sense of envy and separation.
** Othello and Romeo & Juliet are the two works that put me in that zone, start to finish.
***Some have posited that the Bard of Avon smoked pot in his garden in to get into the flow. Very possible, though far from conclusive.
****Okay Jonathan Franzen has the touch. I admit it.