It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
I recently read Kurt Vonnegut’s 1987 novel Bluebeard for the first time. The book is powerful, and it touched on a variety of topics. One of those topics came very close to my heart. If you’re an artist, if creativity bubbles inside you, do you have the rights to express yourself publicly, to call yourself an artist, even if you’re not as good as the giants like Shakespeare or Leonardo da Vinci?
Kurt Vonnegut obviously contemplated the same loaded question when he wrote the following words:
…moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world champions.
The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap-dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an “exhibitionist.”
How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, “Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!”
Perhaps, in 1987, this sad statement was true for any writer, except a small lucky selection picked out by major publishers. Hopefully, it’s not true anymore, because according to Vonnegut, most of self-published writers nowadays, people like myself and many others in the IWSG community, would be considered “exhibitionists” in 1987.
Thank the universe for the internet. Now, we don’t have to bottle-up our “moderate giftedness” anymore. We can “tap-dance” our books online and find our own readers, and the gate-keepers of the past be damned. And if anybody jeers, we don’t have to read their tweets either. We become an online community, and the need to compare with geniuses like Vonnegut dissolves. I hope…
I’d say: Hip-hip-hooray! What do you say?