English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Red chalk. 33 × 21 cm. Turin, Royal Library (inv.no. 15571). NOTE This image is in red chalk. Do not revert to the black and white image. Deutsch: Kopf eines bärtigen Mannes, sog. Selbstbildnis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Apparently Leonardo Da Vinci is the originator of the classic phrase: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
I first encountered it in a different form with other attribution as it related to books: “No book is ever finished, only abandoned,” but suspect Leonardo still deserves the credit. I can tolerate the man being a genius, but he was talented to excess.
Either way, there is a great truth to that statement, particularly in relation to books, because, where traditional Big Publishing is concerned, no sooner does an author submit his best effort (at that time) but a host of people read his or her work and push for changes. Typically, the goal is to make a book both conform to established (corporate) prejudices, and to fit into an established (corporate) genre. After all, if a book cannot be labeled, how can it be marketed? And if something cannot be marketed, what value can it have?
Words fail me at this point.
I will confess to being less than madly enthusiastic about this stage in the long, slow march to traditional publication. I don’t disagree with the editing process as such – it can be very beneficial - but the fact is that great editors are in woefully short supply, and the modern corporate equivalent is, more often than not, no fun to encounter. Corporatization (the relevant facet in this case being the trimming of their numbers in the interests of short term profitability) has meant they rarely have adequate time to do a decent job, let alone champion the interests of the writer; and – good grief – the current practice, in the finest corporate tradition – is to buy books by committee; and thus we get formula publishing; and precious little else. That does not mean that formula books are not entertaining, and sometimes well-written, but it does mean that not only are we being culturally manipulated, but we are also being culturally limited.
Yet creativity, the antithesis of the status quo, or formula, is advanced by originality, commitment and passion; and I have yet to encounter a passionate committee. Committees are a commendable concept in theory, but in practice they tend to be self-neutralizing; and they really and truly don’t do passion.
Sometimes I think that the world is divided, not just into the haves and have-nots, but the creatives and the guardians of the status–quo; and both the haves and the creatives constitute two very small minorities; and are rarely the same people.
The reason why the haves persevere is scarcely a mystery – after all they have all the the physical advantages and comforts – but why creatives, who live mostly with failure, persevere is something of a mystery. Could it be that the imperative to create is its own reward, and generates its own momentum? Could it be that creativity is a vastly more powerful force that we currently appreciate?
Could it be that it is, as yet, substantially untapped? Now there is a subversive thought if ever there was one. Nonetheless, I hold it to be true.
To be continued…