The grit in the oyster

I was having a chat with a friend last week. We’ve both written novels and he was explaining to me that he feels the biggest impetus to write when he’s pissed off with his job. He looks at how much he’s making and what he has to do with his day and says, ‘Fuck this, I’m going to do something else with my life. But if I want to do that I’m going to have to get writing’.

I replied that I did the same (kind of). At first it was not conscious, but at the time I started writing novels I hated coming to work, genuinely dreading it and getting into a right old state on the walk in. So for me it was a kind of escape route, every thousand words another dig of the shovel as I tunnelled to freedom. Later I wasn’t so unhappy, but there were times when the briefs were fewer and further between, and rather than do the proactive stuff that might land me a Creative Circle Bronze, I chose to get on with a kind of creativity that felt more fulfilling. Was that the right decision? Maybe. Of course, you can spend every waking hour devoted either to the briefs you’ve been given or others that you’ve made up yourself, but you’re under no obligation to spend every minute of every day on your day job; a few hours on other creative pursuits would surely be just as good to get the juices flowing when it comes time to do the ads.

Anyway, I’m kind of getting off the subject.

For a huge number of successful people, the pursuit of that success is an attempt to fill a hole of unhappiness. Did Daddy miss your school play? Did Louise Blenkinsop dump you and go out with your best mate? Are you going to show those fuckers who’s boss? Of course you are! But is it going to make you happy? Nope. Andre Agassi famously hated tennis, and was quite keen on crystal meth. Did eight Grand Slams cheer him up? Of course not, but the extent to which he hated his father made him a winner. And I’ve just finished the autobiographies of Rob Delaney and Sarah Silverman. Both were bed-wetting depressives. Is that partly why they’re successful comedians?

A CD of my acquaintance was asked what drove him to produce his extra-curricular writings. He said that ultimately it was the desire to get laid, suggesting that the extent to which he otherwise got laid was not enough. He had achieved so much, and yet the hole continued to drive him Pardon the pun).

So is that aching gap worth having because it makes you put in the extra hours to bring a version of success? Or are people who fail at writing novels and winning Grand Slams in a better position because they go through life untroubled by whatever would otherwise propel them to those victories?

For the record, I feel pretty happy right now, and haven’t written substantially this year. Are the two related? Should I cheat on my wife to fuel my fire? Maybe, as Bono once said, I should kill my inspiration and sing about the grief.

Decisions, decisions…

Comments 13

  1. John S wrote:

    Who the hell told you about Louise Blenkinsop?

    Posted 07 Jul 2014 at 8:52 am
  2. Gadgie wrote:

    Good piece Ben.
    Cheered me up.

    Posted 07 Jul 2014 at 3:15 pm
  3. Anonymouse wrote:

    I don’t want anything extra curricular in my life as long as our business is *this* cool.

    Posted 07 Jul 2014 at 3:27 pm
  4. John S wrote:

    @3 I really don’t know if that is a piss take or not. That’s how bad things have got.

    Posted 07 Jul 2014 at 5:58 pm
  5. Original Richard H wrote:

    I haven’t got an oyster. Shucks.

    Boom boom!

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 8:57 am
  6. Dan Madden wrote:

    Probably also helps to explain why Kanye West puts out an album a year

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 9:39 am
  7. Anonymouse wrote:

    @4. It is a pisstake. I think.

    As for the main subject, I’m finding that I’m most happy when, as you and Bono say, I kill the inspiration.

    A novel about a man who writes a novel wouldn’t be a particularly interesting novel. Same with life, creating is good – if that’s your insatiable dive. But often it’s a form of amour propre that has you sat at a desk when you could be out living adventures rather than writing about them.

    Also, It seems that even our ‘truer’ creative callings are so conditioned by innate expectations of awards and wealth and fame and ‘aren’t you clever’ compliments, that it’s very difficult to actually be honest and artistic in creating the work itself. In which case, might as well just keep plugging away selling stuff. Commercial is commercial.

    All gets me wondering if true creative satisfaction can be found anywhere if one is worried about the fruits of the labour, or about the audience you hope will one day consume it.

    Rambling a bit. But it’s quiet on here. And someone’s got to.

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 11:24 am
  8. steakandcheese wrote:

    @4 couldn’t tell if this one’s a piss take either:

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 3:34 pm
  9. Jim wrote:

    @steakandcheese mind blown.

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 4:18 pm
  10. Sell! Sell! wrote:

    @8 – What the fuck is that an ad #FOR?

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 4:32 pm
  11. steakandcheese wrote:

    @10 Your guess is as good as mine. Seems like they took a few hints from this gem:

    At least I can tell that that one is definitely a piss take.

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 7:32 pm
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    That’s Dave Birss. Current editor of the drum. Has carved out a career from talking shit.

    Posted 08 Jul 2014 at 11:33 pm
  13. vinny warren wrote:

    isn’t everyone trying to fill some hole or other (that sounds a bit rude!)? but it’s just that we creatives get to wallow in our own muck more than most.

    Posted 09 Jul 2014 at 4:05 am

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