I did not sleep easily after that. My head was/is full of questions. What is the logical outcome of this... a highly literate, Oxbridge-educated (is this relevant??) writer who has chosen to write the kind of books they look down on as a reader?? Of course, they have a perfect right to do so. And every reader has a perfect right to read exactly what they wish. However. What happens to lasting literature if those who might well attempt to write it, never do because it makes them no money any more? But you don't need an education to be a writer of meaningful words, do you? I was churning over these conundrums in my head... and my continuing sleeplessness was fuelled by my recent reading of a fascinating and very sad article by Carlo Gebler – entitled “A Life in Literature – or What You Might Lose by Becoming a Writer”.
Here are a few quotes from this article. Comments from self at the end. And a link to the whole thing, which ought to be required reading on all CW courses if you ask moi.
In 1982 or maybe 1983, I published my first short story, called “The Speech of Birds.” ...The Literary Review paid me thirty pounds...I had come by publication honestly. I had worked hard. I had learned things, and I had put those things into practice. My interest in writing was also honest. I was a passionate reader.
I wrote all sorts of things. I worked as reader and wrote reports. I wrote novels. I wrote reviews. I wrote plays. I wrote scripts. I wrote all kinds of things. I made some money....I became a writer and teacher.
Today, I am 56. I hardly read any more. Not like I did....(There is) no time for the proper function of my imagination. ...That capacity has not been killed... my attitude has changed.
I never simply enjoy the act of reading anymore. My authorial intelligence is totally and fully engaged. When I read, whatever I read, I examine and analyze.
I read primarily to steal. This attitude applies not just to books but to everything. In every situation ... there is another part of my personality that is scrutinizing my experiences and thinking two terrible things: What’s in this for me? And: Can I use this? Can I put it in a story? Can I put it in an article?
I am also bitter. ...I am so fucked off with how the world has gone to the dogs and in particular that little bit of the world I think I care about most, which is the Kingdom of Literature...
Self – comments.
I am so saddened by the overall lack of joy here. The apparent self-harming low level of self-esteem in the ghastly admission that he reads now for money and ‘to steal’, not for enjoyment or for mental food. What has the writer's life done to the spirit of this man? The drift from the great pleasure of learning, writing better and better, becoming published, spreading one’s wings, achieving goals – and ultimately - the life of the writer as prisoner of the system. And a system he never meant to become part of, or agrees with.
The complete article is HERE on Some Blind Alleys