Essays & Short Stories

Artists don’t retire – they just die.

Quite recently I was encouraged to watch the massively popular HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ and maybe afterwards I will read the books by George RR Martin. I have, at the time of writing, watched the first five episodes and must say I am finding it thoroughly entertaining. How I will feel after sixty episodes remains to be seen. The lavish, and no doubt expensive, production and screen play is first rate. However, the acting, while passable for a movie of this genre, is not top drawer.

 The purpose of this post, however, is not to critique the series but to highlight the criticism which has been levelled, unfairly in my opinion, at the Author for being behind the eight ball and not finishing the project. Much has been written, some of it unjustifiably aggressive. Here is an example followed by a quote from the Guardian.

29th December 2015 -Tim Marchman of THE CONCOURSE blog says.

“What all people with theories can agree on is that this dude is old and rich, appears to really like traveling and writing talks about the New York Giants and science fiction awards and doing other things that aren’t writing new books in his famous ASOIAF series, and hasn’t published a finished book in that series this millennium. None of this suggests more books are coming our way. It would be great if this dude gave us some pages that explained whether or not Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon are dead, whether Aegon Targaryen is or isn’t a fake, etc. etc., but he can only do so if he has those pages, which he probably doesn’t. Pages will turn up eventually, at which point people will have theories about whether he actually wrote them—one credible theory will be no, because he never had any pages—but either way the question of whether Bran travelled through time to bone his own aunt will have been (sort of) resolved, and what more do you want than that?”

Quoted in the Guardian – 2nd January 2016 George Martin said:

“For months now I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, ‘I have completed and delivered The Winds of Winter’ on or before the last day of 2015. But the book’s not done. Nor is it likely to be finished tomorrow, or next week. Yes, there’s a lot written. Hundreds of pages. Dozens of chapters. But there’s also a lot still left to write. I am months away still … and that’s if the writing goes well. (Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t.)”

I won’t comment on the grammar or the spelling mistakes I corrected in THE CONCOURSE post as that would be rather churlish. What I find rather sad is that consumers who are served up masses of entertainment on all sorts of platforms seem to feel they have a right to demand more until they have gorged themselves. Artists, musicians and writers are passionate, patient, self-driven and mostly self-employed. They appreciate their paying audience but they do not work for them. Of course you could argue that the consumer is the buyer and ‘He who pays the piper…’ etc. which is a fair point if the artist is in it to make money.

But here’s the dilemma. We are not dealing with fast moving consumer goods here. Artists, writers, photographers, musicians etc, unlike mass producing factories, can’t work effectively to order. They are driven by inspiration which doesn’t come wrapped in a timetable. Creative people generally never retire so when they die they are most likely to be working on a project which may never see the light of day or could be finished by someone else. Two notable writers who departed with unfinished work are Geoffrey Chaucher and Charles Dickens. So George Martin’s situation is quite the norm as opposed to being wrong as has been suggested. He has undoubtedly benefitted financially from the road he chose to go down but has he benefitted creatively? I suspect not and now he may be feeling the unrealistic pressure of fame. More writers are turning to self-publishing and musicians have, for a long time, moved away from the demands imposed on them by record companies. It’s a rough road either way.

Take this extract from Gertrude one of my favourite books by Hermann Hesse.

“It was a strange business and it made a sad and curious impression on me; everything that had belonged to me in these earlier years of my life left me, was alien and lost to me. I suddenly saw how sad and artificial my life had been during this period, for the loves, friends, habits and pleasures of these years were discarded like badly fitting clothes. I parted from them without pain and all that remained was to wonder that I could have endured them so long.”

How could anyone write such beautiful prose to order.

Equally, I doubt that I could have created the featured picture heading this post from an order book.

So set the artists free to follow their passion unfettered. You will continue to be amazed at what they will share with you if you are patient.

Your comments are welcome