James baldwin creative process essay


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And then one day something happens—it works. Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent—which attitude certainly has a great deal to support it. On the other hand, it is only because the world looks on his talent with such a frightening indifference that the artist is compelled to make his talent important.

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So that any writer, looking back over even so short a span of time as I am here forced to assess, finds that the things which hurt him and the things which helped him cannot be divorced from each other; he could be helped in a certain way only because he was hurt in a certain way; and his help is simply to be enabled to move from one conundrum to the next—one is tempted to say that he moves from one disaster to the next.

Every form is difficult, no one is easier than another. They all kick your ass.

None of it comes easy. You are speaking to an old rat. If there is no moral question, there is no reason to write. What I hope to convey? Well, joy, love, the passion to feel how our choices affect the world. Most of the rewrite, then, is cleaning.

James Baldwin on “The Creative Process” – Rachel Signer | Natural Wine Journalist

It is part of the business of the writer—as I see it—to examine attitudes, to go beneath the surface, to tap the source. I think what you have to do, which is the difficult thing about a writer, is avoid slogans.

You have to have the [guts] to protest the slogan, no matter how noble it may sound. It always hides something else; the writer should try to expose what it hides. Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance. It is simply this: a writer has to take all the risks of putting down what he sees. No one can tell him about that.

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No one can control that reality. It reminds me of something Pablo Picasso was supposed to have said to Gertrude Stein while he was painting her portrait. In some way, your aspirations and concern for a single man in fact do begin to change the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks or people look at reality, then you can change it. Find a way to keep alive and write. There is nothing else to say. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.

One cannot possibly build a school, teach a child, or drive a car without taking some things for granted. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.

James Baldwin's The Creative Process -- and Its Relevance Today

We do the things we do and feel what we feel essentially because we must — we are responsible for our actions, but we rarely understand them. It goes without saying, I believe, that if we understood ourselves better, we would damage ourselves less. There are so many things one would rather not know! We become social creatures because we cannot live any other way. But in order to become social, there are a great many other things that we must not become, and we are frightened, all of us, of these forces within us that perpetually menace our precarious security.

Yet the forces are there: we cannot will them away.

From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier

All we can do is learn to live with them. And we cannot learn this unless we are willing to tell the truth about ourselves, and the truth about us is always at variance with what we wish to be. The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation. His words ring with double poignancy, for Baldwin — a queer Black man — came of age decades before the marriage equality movement and penned this essay a year before the March of Washington, at which Martin Luther King, Jr.

The human beings whom we respect the most, after all — and sometimes fear the most — are those who are most deeply involved in this delicate and strenuous effort, for they have the unshakable authority that comes only from having looked on and endured and survived the worst. That nation is healthiest which has the least necessity to distrust or ostracize these people — whom, as I say, honor, once they are gone, because somewhere in our hearts we know that we cannot live without them.

Baldwin closes by reflecting on this relationship between the artist and the nation, specifically in the context of American history. The remaining essays in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction explore, with the same blend of intellectual vigor and social sensitivity, subjects like power, protest, equality, patriotism, and the value of indignation.

Complement this particular essay with Joseph Conrad on writing and the role of the artist. Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I receive a small percentage of its price.

Privacy policy. Baldwin, only thirty-eight at the time, writes: Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone. Thanks, Morley. Share Article Tweet. View Full Site.

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james baldwin creative process essay James baldwin creative process essay
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