I have had to turn down some gorgeous offers this past month . Firstly a trip to Kenya. I had to turn that down because it coincided with a week long course I am giving for Arvon in England and secondly yesterday I had to turn down a reading on stage in London with David Simon the writer of The Wire and one of the hottest writers of the moment.
If you can define an artists career by the work they turn down rather than the work they take then I am in a good place professionally speaking. It’s probably not the best form to mention events one has turned down. But it helps me make a point. It is easy to perceive
that an authors physical visibility in the literary world of lunches and launches, panels and papers is some kind of barometer of their success.
If I don’t hear about an author I assume he or she is writing. If he or she is writing then I
assume he or she is in the blush of success before hitting the cold open air of the market. It is this counter intuitive impulse that can see a writers success. The industry rolls on like a river. And though it is easy to say it is a fast river. It is another view to see that the
rocks that take hundreds of years to form themselves into an ever widening turret are where the work is really done, is being done.
Likewise if one looks at an author’s career people often ask “are you busy.” This assumptive question equates the business of busy-ness with success. But the successful people I know, and that definition is ever changing but lets assume it means financially successful, are not “busy.” They are surprisingly available to experience and the production process. I speak particularly of artists.
I have always maintained that having an agent or various agents and managers is simply a means of protecting the artists most important asset which is the need and
ability to explore creativity in their chosen field. Many view the attaining of an agent as a step towards success – success being the goal rather than a biproduct. The more unattainable the agent is the more they perceive it as the key.
But the key remains the same as it did thousands of years ago. Success is in the creation. Not simply the product of the creation but the creation; a place so fundamentally human that to do it and engage with it is to know what it is to be alive. When one engages with
that principle even publishing feels like a come down, a betrayal even. It tunes right in to brian Patten’s statement when reading a series of love poems. “Don’t clap for them”
he says “they get jealous of each other.” Notoriety is a biproduct and fleeting in comparison.