Authors with a Mortgage

Authors with a mortgage never get writer’s block. It is a luxury only those with an income equal to their outgoings can afford. I suspect there are other afflictions which we can indulge in only when we have the time, leisure or opportunity to do so. That is not to suggest that that the pain or difficulty they cause is unreal (I have my own weekly duel with writer’s block, so I wot whereof I speak), but the registering it, the allowing it to take centre stage, so to say, are acts within our control.

So here’s a challenge for today. What is your favourite whinge about? Is it a genuine grievance, such as Benedict meant when he talked about ‘justifiable murmuring’, or is it a covert form of self-indulgence, a little bit of armour we put on to defend ourselves against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? If you’re not sure, or unwilling to admit that it might just be a way of defending yourself against (unspoken) criticism or (as yet uncertain) failure, think again. The chains we make for ourselves are the ones that really bind.


12 thoughts on “Authors with a Mortgage”

  1. I retweeted the ‘writer’s block’ quote earlier today, because it appealed to me. However, I am not sure it is so. Necessity is not always the mother of creative invention. The sound of a bill falling on the mat, or a ticking clock for that matter, can be the death knell of creativity rather than its overture.

    There comes a point where “justifiable murmuring” must yield to hopeful praying – and never more so than before the empty page!

    • Don’t forget that we Benedictines are never let off the hook. Benedict has a chapter on doing the impossible! And of course, he insists that every good work we begin must be preceded by prayer. Although I didn’t intend to do more than glance at the subject of writing, I think it’s worth distinguishing between lack of inspiration (which everyone experiences at times), paralysis of mind and pen (which has deep psychological roots and is the true ‘writer’s block’) and the rather self-regarding lamentations of those whose ego is greater than their talent. I was thinking about that in the context of the way we guard against failure. Think of the ‘great’ novelist who never ventures a second for fear of failure. Our grumbles often tell us what we fear.

  2. While I understand what you are saying, I don’t agree this is the case in many ways. Apart from the fact that very few authors indeed can live on their earnings through writing, those that do are under obligation to fulfill contracts. This generally means they are writing very much for a commercial genre, and therefore are not always required to create truly original works.
    The motto of the university I attended was haec otia studia fovent, roughly translated as this leisure favours study. Only when to the outside observer it seems idle is the mind and spirit able to be truly creative. The greater the pressure to create, the correspondingly great risk of the mind becoming blocked.
    To trawl deep in the psyche requires time and space to do so; to create art from the heart and soul is not the same as paying the bills.
    That said, many great artists and writers died in dire poverty.
    Good topic, thank you. I blog twice a week, and sometimes it is indeed hard to come up with something. When it comes to fiction, it can be even harder if you’re trying to be original, and to find and use your own voice.

  3. As you correctly discerned, Viv, what I said was only incidentally about writing. However, I don’t think I agree entirely with you say about the creative process. For example, I write a weekly column for a well-known Catholic newspaper because my community needs the money. I write under pressure, and I don’t aim at creating great art; I do expect to write a sensible piece of plain writing, as well-crafted in writerly terms, as I can make it. I think that’s perfectly acceptable, don’t you? This blog is not art; it is craft, and I don’t think that makes it inferior: it is simply appropriate to the genre (blogging). I suspect it would not be any better if I had more time to give it because I lack the essential gift to be a great writer. But I think it is still worth doing, even when written against the clock, because it elicits interesting comments such as yours.

  4. Oh of course. I always liked the fact that it was the Arts AND Crafts movement. The two are intertwined.
    I often feel huge pressure to turn out lifechanging blog pieces because I want to offer something powerful but unfortunately I don’t often hit the mark. I can’t expect to but somehow I do expect it of myself.
    Over the 3 and a half years I’ve been blogging, I have been approached a good number of times by advertisers asking to pay for putting ads on my blog. I’ve refused all of them. This is not because I don’t need the money but because I don’t feel that advertising products on a blog that is aimed at promoting thought, philosophy, ease of depression etc is an appropriate use. If I cannot fully, personally endorse a thing, to advertise it is to compromise my integrity.
    It’s not that I don’t want money for writing, but I don’t want to need to want money. cupiditatem radix malorum est. Once money becomes involved, things always subtly change, or not so subtly. This is a neutral thing, as money is, but it needs watching.

  5. Viv studied in Liverpool whence I greet her. I’m going to give serious thought to what is my faviurite whinge. A gut reaction is misuse of language.

    • Am chuffed to bits to have my quote place me at Liverpool. My family come from the city but I grew up near Cambridge but elected to go to Liverpool for my degree.
      I married there in ’87 and have never been back in all those years. Good memories.

      • I recognised the motto straight away. Good choice of university. I’m a scouser born and bred and it looks as if I’ll die here. I have lived elsewhere but love mynhome town.

  6. I had to look up the definition of St. Benedict’s “murmuring”, which is defined as a sin against the spirit if not the actual Rule. Found an interesting book entitled “Preferring Christ, A Devotional Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict” by Norvene Vest. This, about balancing everyday life against the preference of joys of the Resurrection. Jump in, Big Sis, to clarify…I’m still thinking about this blog post, my whingefests always have their roots in dealings with other people, my struggle to see God in the other, my inability to let go and let God.

    • Jean, after thirty years of trying to live according to the Rule of St Benedict and despite having made aspects of it a serious academic study, I am no nearer plumbing its depths. But I do know how corrosive grumbling is of any relationship, human or spiritual.

      • Thank you for your admission, which in fact is very encouraging to me. I try to remember that “we walk by faith and not by sight”, but I’d prefer a night light, wheels on my crosses, that sort of thing. In the absence of the above, I am thankful for the companionship of other believers on my journey. This blog post hit home, has been on my mind all day – will have to work on it.

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