This is ‘being hit on the head lessons’ (with credit to Monty Python). ‘Why would anyone do that?’ Well, ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves’ might be another way of putting it.
I have the WuFlu so am rather more all over the place than usual. I got to 41K on the WIP but I think I may have to cut and redo…
Sarah posted an excellent piece about creativity. It’s both rarer and more common than we think. Rarer… true ‘de novo’ creativity happens… maybe. Because, truly everything humans do has at least foundations in their experience, which unless you were raised remotely by unseen forces, involved other humans. (I know, that about wraps it up for Mowgli) . All of us on the other hand take bits of that experience and weld them onto other pieces, often quite creatively, sometimes exceptionally so.
This of course is what pushed the human race out of some remote cave in Africa and onto achievements like… New York City. So: everyone takes a few wrong turnings along the line. Generally, life is unrecognizably better. It may well get better still – almost certainly not in any approved fashion, or even predicted one. It amuses me (because I have a small and rather odd mind) that the part of society often called ‘progressive’ are horrendously conservative about the very narrow vision of the future they hold. If there is one thing we know for sure, the future will not co-operate.
Anyway – actual progress: Much of that comes down to rarer end of the very common creativity – where people take things ‘which are not meant to go together’ (harrumph!) and create new things which change the world forever. It should be unsurprising that sf and fantasy (Which, harrumph! often puts totally inappropriate things which are not meant to go together, like pickles and chocolate, and occasionally achieves brilliance when something works out (not, so far as I know that combination)) is overly likely to have such creativity. The way sf/fantasy is treated – particularly by the current (‘progressive’) arts establishment kind of brings me to my thesis for today. Creativity which does not fit the model they hold to a narrow but certain path is to beaten down until it sees the error of its ways. Everything the establishment is deployed: from ‘we won’t publish your book’ to trying organize pogroms, purges, deplatforming and unpersoning (so-and-so is a bad man. 44 of you HAVE HIM ON YOUR FRIENDS LIST!) Critics, bookstores, and of course social media (redolent with accusations of racist/sexist/whatever the buzzword of the week is.)
It’s one hell of a tide to stand against. Look, being a writer is fine balancing act between self-confidence and fragility. Too much of either are a disaster, and early in your career, young authors do not want to push against the narrow bounds of ‘acceptable’ futures, because… well, because they are truly FRAGILE about their work. You feel about it as you do your beloved baby. So: yes. It does enforce compliance on all but the strong-of-mind — which is of course not fertile ground for creativity, but there you go. If you’re being compliant, you’re de facto not being very creative.
But, here’s the thing… it’s not just one battle (unless you’re a one book wonder) and it is exhausting. Most of the authors I know have been in this ‘we will not comply’ rebellion have been fighting a LONG war. Book after book – not defeat, small victories, perhaps. There is battle fatigue. And with that often comes a retreat to safe ground. The foe’s resources are huge… the author has perhaps loyal friends and fans, but a lot of us are very isolated — you get to feeling it’s just you. Some authors simply retreat into writing what is safe and approved, and others… it hurts to much. They stop altogether.
But the rest of us: we go on. Creativity requires an outlet, and it does not thrive under prescription or boundaries.