Wednesday, February 23, 2011

James Baldwin on Writing

...which could easily apply to anyone who considers him or herself an artist.

Baldwin opens his tribute of sorts on Richard Wright in his collection of essays Nobody Knows My Name with these apposite observations on the writing process and a writer's personality (of course touching on the bipolar psyche of the writer that craves human/social connections while simultaneously allowing those connections to fuel his or her misanthropic isolationism).

In "Alas, Poor Richard":

"Unless a writer is extremely old when he dies, in which case he has probably become a neglected institution, his death must always seem untimely . This is because a real writer is always shifting and changing and searching. The world has many labels for him, of which the most treacherous ins the label Success. But the man behind the label knows defeat far more intimately than he knows triumph. He can never be absolutely certain that he has achieved his intention."

"The writer's greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody; in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all; and families, friends, and lovers find this extremely hard to take. While he is alive, his work is fatally entangled with his personal fortunes and misfortunes, his personality, and social facts and attitudes of his time. The unadmitted relief, then, of which I spoke has to do with a certain drop in the intensity of our bewilderment, for the baffling creator no longer stands between us and his works."

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