The Creative Life

The creative life is forgiving: You can betray it all you want, again and again, and no matter how many times you do, it will always take you back.

– Lev Grossman, How Not to Write Your First Novel

When I read Lev Grossman’s piece on how he graduated from college and tried (and failed) to write his first novel, I had a rueful moment of recognition– his plan to be a solitary genius and to ‘live the creative life’ in a farmhouse in rural Maine seemed like something I could have done, if I’d had the bravery to do it. I did not go as far as he did, but only because I was primarily a poet, and even I knew nobody makes any money publishing poetry.* As Grossman laid out the premise– traveling away from everything he knew, believing he needed near-complete solitude to write, not wanting to be a sell-out– it was clear that he was going to fail, and fail badly. After six months he packed up and left for the real world. But we know that eventually Grossman did manage to write critically-acclaimed best-selling books. So what is the point? The point is you don’t have to be lonely genius to write a book– in fact, that it’s better to be around other people, and working in an office doesn’t preclude writing books.

He ends the piece with the quote that I put at the beginning of this piece, which hit me squarely in the big bag of excuses I drag around for not doing my creative work– I’m too old, too boring, too bad at writing, etc. He’s right– It’s never too late. The Muse will take you back again and again.

*Billy Collins is the exception that proves the rule.