the madness of art


THE USUAL interpretation of the phrase “the madness of art” conjures up an attractive cliché: the writer as a creature possessed, spilling out words in a divine frenzy. This isn’t the normal experience of the practicing fiction writer, the writer who’s found a way to keep going over the long haul, and it isn’t the idea of the artist that James had in mind. Let’s listen again to Dencombe: “Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task.” I love the fact that he uses the word “passion” and the word “task” in the same sentence—the one so exalted, the other so commonplace. More than this, I love that he equates them. Our passion is our task. To follow the calling of art, to keep faith with it, to continue with your daily labors despite the frustrations, the distractions, and the other varieties of madness that will inevitably beset you—all this requires passion, but it also requires something else, something more down-to-earth. Call it steeliness. Call it persistence. Call it tenacity. Call it resilience. Call it devotion.

more from Brian Morton at Dissent here.