The NY TIMES today has an interestingly sympathetic review of a little potboiler that Gore Vidal cranked out in 1953 under a pseudonym for three thousand dollars, at a time when things were going badly for him and he just needed to make a buck. The review made me like Vidal even more, because it evoked for me a division in the world of artistic creativity in which I am firmly on one side.
Some great artists adopt a workmanlike attitude toward what they do, not putting on airs or getting the vapors if it is suggested that they accommodate their genius to some quotidien demand. My hero in this regard is Bach. I imagine him saying, on a Monday, "Well, the second soprano is out of town, the horn player has a cold, and my violist's wife has just had a baby, so I need to compose a cantata for this Sunday with a tenor, a bass, and an alto and no horn or viola. But there is a visiting oboist who might be willing to sit in. Right, then, here we go." And out comes another exquisitely beautiful work. In contrast to this healthy, working-stiff approach is the Romantic Artist, who sits alone in his garret, waiting for inspiration to strike so that he can tear, bleeding from his breast, some conception the playing of which would require more musicians than could be rustled up in the entire principality.
I have always been enchanted by the perhaps apocryphal story about Dickens, many, if not all, of whose novels were written in pieces for publication in weekly magazines. It is said that he went into a shop one day and overheard two women gossiping about the novel he was then writing. They were wondering what would happen to one of the characters, and Dickens realized that he did not know, as he had not yet written the next episode.
I think perhaps that is why I enjoy maintaining a blog. The idea is not to go off to a writers' colony where I am cossetted and made much of and given a cabin in the woods where I can commune with my muse until I am struck by an idea. The blog sits there demanding to be attended to, and if I miss so much as one day I think myself a failure. To post something that is not badly written, and perhaps even has an interesting idea in it, makes me feel that I have earned my supper.