Tuesday, January 13, 2015

(#104-1) January 13 2015. What makes a writer a writer? A credential? I think not. How about writing (Making a living out of it is a different matter)?





(What a lovely phrase…)

As it happens, I have a Masters, but that is not how I learned to write—or close. A good school education in the basics, voracious reading, and decades of actually writing taught me to write—and I’m still learning.

I expect to be learning in my coffin—and if Heaven won’t let me write, I’ll try the other place.

Needless to say, they’ll use Windows down there.

All in all, I am extremely skeptical of credentialing—and am quite glad that there isn’t a formal qualification such as ‘Doctor’ for us writers. As NCOs like to say: “Don’t call me ‘sir.’ I work for a living.”

I am skeptical of credentialing because an awful lot of people seem to pay more attention to the qualification than to the overall caliber of the person. Secondly, all too many jobs—which really don’t need a qualification—now require one for no valid work reason. Thirdly, I dislike the way so many people are forced into educational debt. And finally, I have met all too many people, who although formally qualified, were less than impressive.

In truth, I’m all for education and training—and believe in lifelong learning—but I hold to the view we’ve let credentialing get out of hand.

Would I be a better writer if I had a formal qualification in writing? I doubt that very much. Am I self-taught? Convention would say so. I think otherwise. I’m not that arrogant. I was taught—and continue to be taught—by the many thousands of wonderful authors whose books I read.

I am privileged to have had—and have—truly great teachers.

Maria Popova tacked the thorny issue of creativity and credentialing in www.BrainPickings.com I swear the woman is telepathic because she keeps on coming up with subjects that resonate.

A great many creators have spoken to the power of discipline, or what psychologists now call "grit,"in setting apart those who succeed from those who fail at their endeavor of choice How to master the elusive art of discipline is what beloved artist, actor, playwright, and educator Anna Deavere Smith outlines in one of the missives in her immeasurably insightful and useful compendium Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts for Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind (public library).

Smith writes:

Discipline – both mental and physical – is crucial.

Smith argues that discipline is also the single most important anchor of identity for creative people – the essential material out of which they craft the building blocks of how they define themselves:

The life of an artist is not a state of “being.” It even sounds pretentious, sometimes, to call oneself blanketly “an artist.” It's not up to you or me to give ourselves that title. A doctor becomes a doctor because he or she is formally given an MD. A scholar in the university is formally given a PhD, a counselor an LLD, a hairstylist a license, and so forth.

We are on the fringe, and we don't get such licenses. There are prizes and rewards, popularity and good or bad press. But you have to be your own judge. That, in and of itself, takes discipline, and clarity, and objectivity. Given the fact that we are not “credentialed” by any institution that even pretends to be objective, it is harder to make our guild. True, some schools and universities give a degree for a course of study. But that's a business transaction and ultimately not enough to make you an “artist.”

Because an artist is never hit with the magic wand of legitimacy from the outside and "you have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand," creative people are singularly vulnerable every time they put their art – whatever its nature – into the world. Without the shield of, say, a Ph.D. to point to and say, "But look, I'm real," it's all too easy to hang our merit and worth and realness on the opinions of others – opinions often mired in their own insecurities and vulnerabilities, which at the most malignant extreme manifest as people's tendency to make themselves feel big by making others feel small, make themselves feel real by making others feel unreal. Smith captures the paradox of this condition elegantly:

We who work in the arts are at the risk of being in a popularity contest rather than a profession. If that fact causes you despair, you should probably pick another profession. Your desire to communicate must be bigger than your relationship to these chaotic and unfair realities. Ideally, we must be even more “professional” than lawyers, doctors, accountants, hairdressers. We have to create our own standards of discipline.

All of the successful artists I know are very disciplined and very organized. Even if they don't look organized, they have their own order... What we become – what we are – ultimately consists of what we have been doing.

Read more on how to cultivate that discipline here.

VOR words c. 150

No comments:

Post a Comment