Okay, so last night was the National Book Awards, and on twitter (and facebook), everyone seemed to be heading down to Wall Street for the gala bash.Â I was GREEN with envy.Â I quite like to wear gowns.
Grubby jeans or vintage gowns and fake sparkles. I really see no point in anything in between.
Business casual. Meh.
But the point of this post is not my predilicition for Goodwill finery, it’s that Ron Hogan was there (tweeting), and so there’s a wrap-up on Galleycat today, that includes a fun little interview with Salvatore Scibona (I cannot repost as the dumb viddler isn’t working).
But in that interview, Salvatore talks about something I LOVE, the fact that economic downturn is sort of affirming for creative types.Â I’ve avoided discussion of this topic myself until now, because it tends to make people (especially people who’ve just lost a packet on the market, or maybe their homes) itchy, but it’s true, and I kind of delight in it.
See, to pursue a writing life, to really make literature and art the center of things, you have to accept a certain amount of uncertainty, poverty, etc.Â You decide you’ll be a waitress forever, and never own a fancy handbag. You live in a studio apartment, eat cheap.Â Ideally, you do this (not because you’re selfish and singleminded, but) because you’re choosing to prioritize art and social commentary and intelligent community and the life of the mind BEFOREÂ handbags.
You are choosing to value a different economy, buy stock in a different market.
Then, when the handbag market fails, and the mutual funds of artistic merit are still rock solid, you get to feel like you invested well!
(I suppose this is a little the way fundamentalists will get to feel at the pearly gates, if it turns out that sex and booze WERE bad, and heaven IS awesome. But that’s a conversation for another day.)
Of course, the flip side is that a lot of artistic types don’t think about stability at all, and that’s problematic for me.Â As someone with kids, I no longer allow myself the “Oh, heck! Who needs groceries? I’m going to go to the bar and have an EXPERIENCE!” decisionmaking process. I can no longer spend my life savings on books and time to write.
But there’s a middle path, a way to choose art ANDÂ stability, both.Â To not concern yourself with wealth. To seek out enough financial security that you don’t fret daily, but also not get caught up in the pursuit of big houses and fancy cars. And as we get older, most of the writers I know are living those kinds of lives.Â Balancing frugality with experience, to maximize the focus on art.
Let’s just say that I don’t know a single writer who’s ever speculated in anything but their own work. I don’t know a single poet who bought a house they couldn’t afford.
Because poets KNOW they can’t afford much.