Be Someone Or Be Someone's Fool Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-10-02 14:00:00 No comments

Rather than get bogged down in the mire of the government shutdown (my Canadian friends are all gently shaking their heads in dismay), I'll turn to other matters.

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Joyce Cary (of The Horse's Mouth, first his novel and then later an Alec Guinness film) was wont to say that once a writer has achieved his own vision of life he will never run out of things to write about. Elizabeth Lawrence, Cary's American editor, put it this way about Cary himself: "He know who he was and where he was going."

Both are essential; neither are a given.

When you call yourself a creator and yet lack for either of those things, there's much thrashing about for an identity. Some end up taking on a second-hand identity -- identifying with a movement, or sporting a fashion, or attempting to exploit a trend, or doing something even dumber.

The other night I was talking with Steven Savage about the problem that many young, enthusiatic creators seem to have where they don't seem to realize they're behaving like sellouts. They don't think there's anything wrong with thinking about writing as a game plan, one where you look for what's trendy, write something like that, sell it to Hollywood, make a million bucks, and then retire at thirty to some country where a dollar buys you a lot of drinks.

Nowhere do I get the impression they're insincere about such things, and that's precisely what's so scary about it all. To them, that's the best way to do it. To do it because you want to hone your craft is something that's lauded to your face, but the second you turn your back the snickering starts.

Innocence gives us the freedom to be both great and terrible. The very first things I remember writing were in deliberate, conscious imitation of others -- whether it was my brother or the SF writer I'd read the other week. What stopped me was, I am chagrined to admit, getting caught at it red-handed -- and even worse, the person who caught me didn't even have a vested interest in setting me on the right path. He was just casually noticing how similar what I'd done was to that book. Abashed, I withdrew the work and realized I had to do a hell of a lot more than just blithely copy the things I liked and hoped no one would notice.

I didn't know who I was or where I was going, which was -- and I don't feel I'm using this word frivolously -- dangerous. Maybe not dangerous to others, but definintely dangerous to me, since odds are such behavior left unchecked would have allowed me to founder all the more and never find my real way.

A person who can't say what within himself is definitively his will never be able to see the outside world in anything but other people's terms. Ditto someone who just wants to be patted on the head for "being original", as opposed to actually being original.

Tags: Joyce Cary creativity writing