Monday, February 23, 2009

Silver Linings

Many literary agents who blog have been posting that within the last few weeks they've been receiving a record number of submissions from wannabe authors. If you don't know, the general procedure in finding an agent is to send them a one page query about your book and your pertinent writing credentials. Then you wait and see if you get a bite. Most wannabe authors have to send hundreds (I exaggerate not!) of these out before they get an agent. Odds are better to buy a lottery ticket, if you want to know the truth.


What I really want to know is WHY the upswing? The economy is bad, people are depressed and frightened, and well... a lot of emotions are heightened right now. But that's precisely why I think there are more people out there expanding their creative forces and artistic abilities. Art is an outlet for our emotions. It's cheaper than therapy and channels the natural instincts of humans to create. Perhaps I'm wrong, but let me illustrate my point. Out of the Great Depression, here are a few of the artists who emerged (and usually wrote about it too):

  • John Steinbeck
  • Willa Cather
  • Harper Lee
  • Arthur Miller
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Ezra Pound
  • William Faulkner
  • William Carlos Williams
  • James Cain

I realize this list is just the few off the top of my head. But I hope it shows just how much creative genius can be borne under physical or emotional duress. Most talented individuals, whatever the era of their birth, have some obstacle (usually health and/or money shortages) that you'd think would keep them from their creations. But we know that adversity can also make the stalwart stronger. Perhaps that's what these challenges actually breed: determination and refined skill. And maybe that's what we're seeing now. Maybe?

For now I feel that the outpouring of creativity is just one of the silver linings that come from hard socioeconomic times. There are others, I'm sure. (Sometime soon I'll post my thoughts on how financial strains can improve the environment.)

I am nervous about the future, much like everyone else, but it's lists like this that give me hope that we will see beauty even in the hardest of times.

And while I'm making lists of artists, I also thought this one was interesting and not completely unrelated. I came across it while researching for the Bodysnatcher book I'm eventually going to write...

From: Twelve Diseases that Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman

Some people believed that tuberculosis sparked creative genius. Among the imminent gallery of victims were: Baruch Spinoza, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekov, Sir Walter Scott, D.H. Lawrence, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Jean Antoine Watteau, Niccolo Paganini, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Igor Stravinsky, Robert Lois Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Franz Kafka, Amadeo Modigliani, Fredric Chopin, Henry David Thoreau, George Orwell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Vivien Leigh, and Reverend Bronte (and his whole family, including Emily and Charlotte).

Interesting list, isn't it? Though it's completely unfounded scientifically that TB sparked creative genius, it makes you think how much these people accomplished though they were very sick (and in fact dying).

And it makes ME think, what could I, a perfectly healthy and extremely privileged person, accomplish if I put my mind to it?


  1. So, doesn't that mean you need to be sick or struggling in order to be accomplished? :) I hope not. I'm glad you find so many things to motivate and encourage you in your writing.

  2. Hmm, interesting points! I hope you don't get TB :)

  3. oh, and what's your new profile picture of?

  4. You can have perfect health, monetary stability and a peaceful life and still be creative, but you need to know how it feels to have those things threatened to turn that creativity into an artform. Good luck.

    PS-Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a distant relative of mine. I'm hoping trace genetics plays a part in my success.