Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Time to Hang Up Your Guns: Part 1

Ernest Hemingway killed himself when he thought he’d lost it. Robert E. Howard spoke of the same thing in letters before he put a bullet in his brain. Jack London drank himself into oblivion at least in part for the same reason. There are many other examples but these are ones I know something about.

All three of these men were writers, and all three believed their best years and best work lay behind them. Two of them killed themselves when that happened. The third might as well have. Whatever “it” was, their gift, their muse, their will, they all felt they’d lost it.

I do believe that artists, writers, painters, musicians, etc, can indeed ‘lose’ it. Whatever powered the majesty of their imaginations and creativity can disappear. I certainly don’t suggest that such folks should kill themselves, but I wonder if they should…quit. Should they stop writing, stop painting, hang it up? I wonder, will it happen to me? Will I lose it? Will I know it when it happens? Or has it already happened?

What causes creative people to lose it? I suspect there are many possible reasons. Age is one, and along with age, health issues. I find, myself, that I typically don’t seem able to concentrate for as sustained a period of time now as I did when I was younger. And physically, sitting four hours at a keyboard takes a bigger toll on me now than it used to. Ray Bradbury’s style has changed dramatically since he was younger. Does age have anything to do with it?

“Will” is another factor. Before you’re published, the drive to reach publication is intense. But once you’ve seen your name in print a few times, other motivations have to come to the fore. Those may be to produce bigger, more complex works, to increase your audience, or your markets. But what about Stephen King and Dean Koontz? What makes them keep writing? Both probably have enough money coming in without it, and both have seen their names in print, and on films, numerous times. Some will say that both King and Koontz have lost “it,” at least some quality that their work once possessed but which no longer does. But have they lost it, or merely changed their priorities? I’d love to hear them tell me, honestly, what they think about their own skills as creative writers, both now, and in the past.

I’m going to post a second part to this discussion in a couple of days, but for now I’d love to get your feedback on the topic. What is the “it” that some folks seem to lose? What causes them to lose it? And is it ever possible to get it back?


AvDB said...

I think it does come down to motivation and priorities much of the time. I don't know if declining numbers of active brain cells are partly to blame or not, but I do think the natural human tendency to change is at fault. Writers evolve. They shift genres, writing techniques, style. Sometimes I think they evolve out of writing altogether. Maybe they've said all they had to say. Maybe their passion came from a place of hurt or anger or sadness. When that emotion is resolved or made peace with, the motivation dies. When they get over their issues, they get over their occupation.

As far as priorities go, I've talked to my husband (the Architect) about it and motivation at length. We have both concluded we would probably be better artists if we weren't so content with one another. If we had marital discord or strife, we would clearly want to spend more time with our work than with each other. Maybe Stephen and Tabitha decided they liked daily walks better than an extra hour at the keyboard.

Whatever is behind the loss, killing oneself over it is a ridiculous notion. That, to me, shows an empty life, a life devoid of anything other than writing. And that's very sad. Yes, I love to write. And no, I never want it to go away. But, if it did I would pout for a while then go find something else to do. After all, it's just an occupation. An important one, an exhilarating one, sometimes a seemingly necessary one. But, at the end of the day, it's just business. And that rambling paragraph takes me back to my point about priorities.

Leigh Russell said...

When I started writing, I was hooked. Now I've been working on the second book in my series, which I sent off to the publisher TODAY (whoopee!) but I didn't feel as driven with that manuscript. I'm not sure that it's any the worse for that. I enjoyed writing it more.
Harper Lee only wrote one book. When she was asked why she hadn't written another, she replied words to the effect of, How do I follow that?
Sorry, Charles, I'm so relieved at meeting my deadline for Book 2, I'm rambling here, on your blog. Sorry. Still, I haven't mentioned on my own blog yet that I've finished my draft for Book 2, so you heard it here first! Now you'll have to forgive me.

Sidney said...

That's a good topic.

I agree that will and enthusiasm have a lot to do with it. I miss the zeal I had when I was in my twenties.

I'm in the MFA program with a guy who's writing really for the first time and he's producing lots of stuff quickly and you can kind of see the creative flow happening, and see how wonderful it is.

I agree age and other concerns detract, and yeah, I've produced less since I've been married also.

I think it's good to shift gears and do different things when some of the creative juices cool.

I don't know at what point everything looks so lost and hopeless than an immediate end seems the answer. The thing about creativity is it can become hot again when least expected.

Leigh Russell said...

I agree with Avery DeBow. I love writing - really love it - but if I ever run out of ideas, I'll stop writing. And, like Avery, I'd find something else to do. I love writing, but I love being alive too. Presumably some writers don't, and the writing is what keeps them alive.

Leigh Russell said...

While I was writing my last, Sydney commented. I agree with him too. You never know when creativity can burst out!

Anonymous said...

I am not a writer but I think that with age comes maturity and I think that this can bring new dimensions to the creative process. I think that it is a question of how much you enjoy to write/paint/compose.

Monet carried on painting when his eyes were failing.

Cat Stevens has taken up his guitar again after many years of not playing.

Terry Pratchett, a very successful author, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. So cruel for one of his intelligence. see his speech about it here:


Iris Murdoch was another.

Keep writing as long as you enjoy doing it, I suppose. Then take a break until you want to to do it again. And as a published author you will always be able to reach people (like me) who have never read you before, but can enjoy the excitement of discovering you for the first time!

Clare2e said...

Maybe I'm happy to be such a late bloomer then. I had zeal and passion twenty years ago, but no persistence or ability to tame the impulses into manageability. I'm a faster writer than I was, and better, too, I think, though I'd like to prove that more tangibly. I think I've just found IT enough to make it work, so I hope I don't have to worry about losing IT for a few manuscripts.

These are good questions you pose, Charles. Is it better to be Grandma Moses or Van Gogh?

jodi said...

Charles, I think the majority of creative type people function very highly in that area, but are lacking in other areas. The area of reason-such as killing oneself as an option, seems a very weak part of those brains. It's a delicate balance that with genuis comes that compensation.

the walking man said...

I think it would be a good question for a statistician. Do them of the "artist community" commit suicide more than them of the community at large? There are an awful lot of folks from teens to pensioners that take their life.

We simply know or hear of the "names" that do it. In 2006 I went to 6 funerals of suicides. Of the 6; 1 was a poet, 2 were a teens, 1 a distraught father who had lost his family to a drunk driver and couldn't (didn't want to) go on, 1 a man who gambled his home away and 1 who had a terminal illness.

I don't know if artists have a higher percentage or not but I will admit I do kind of get Hunter Thompson and his suicide. I don't get Richard Brautigan who shot himself as we was on the verge of regaining his popularity, he had a contract waiting for him and he knew it.

If the writer can do nothing at all but write and has no hope of a life when the writing is done then they really didn't have much of a life to begin with. One that existed primarily in their head.

For anyone to say they need turmoil and disharmony in order to produce their best work then shame on me for having no imagination left that would allow me to empathize with the disharmony in a characters life by only living through it in the world outside my head.

I first saw my name in print a few years ago and I will admit I was glad for it but that was that. I experienced the thrill of it and moved on. Since then I have seen some success with the blog and Stink, but to me the way the story is told and disseminated is much more important than who disseminates it.

And one thing I know for sure, there is poetry in everything and likewise there is a back story in every situation I encounter. As long as I have the will to write I will and when I no longer have the will to write hell with it. I'll nag the old lady or take a nap or find me a young one who needs a hand in their endeavor, anything but waste a bullet.

Erik Donald France said...

I guess it depends on the person (good topic): Picasso became stranger, but kept going; Bob Dylan was always strange and keeps going; some writers produce shorter works as they age, probably for some of the reasons you laid out re: aging, physical discomfort. At least artists can keep going long after athletes have to give up their game! I like "bop till you drop" as a motto better than "better to burn out than to rust."

Steve Malley said...

Hmmm, just thinking...

You see, I haven't drawn a comic in some years now. One might say I've 'lost it' there, but the closer truth for me is that I've switched to writing novels.

I've also certainly had fallow periods in my tattooing. Times when the work I turned out was... uninspired. Couple of those times I took a sabbatical, the most recent one I just kept on keeping on. One day, the magic returned.

Plateaus are a natural part of development in exercise and learning new skills. No reason to think long flat stretches wouldn't be part of creative development as well.

Me, I tend to think that the troubles of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, et so many al, have more to do with the self-destructive darkness of alcoholism that so often runs hand in hand with literature...

Erik Donald France said...

p.s. Another thing: BIG musicians seem to peak as far as "big hits", then grind out whatever they can until they retire or die. Doesn't matter whether rich or poor.

G. B. Miller said...

Interesting question.

I came into writing waaaaaaay late in life (like four years ago) so I don't really know much about disappointment/rejection.

That being said, I've always been a little creative (if not completely neurotic) in my life. I think it took a couple of major personal problems to find my focus (or niche, either one works).

Once I did, I never really looked back. I basically write for the pure pleasure that it brings me, and to a greater extent, the pleasure that it brings to others.

If I get commercially published, fine. If not, that's fine as well. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. Writing is my favorite release from reality.

Even though my body is beginning the long torturous process of breaking down, I will always have something to say.

The motivation will always be there, because the motivation is easiest thing to acquire. For me, my motivation is not wanting to keep my mouth shut.

Pure and simple. So long as I feel I have something to say, I'll keep putting pen to paper and computer chip to computer screen.

laughingwolf said...

when anything becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, it's time to find another pleasure...

Spy Scribbler said...

I've always felt like such an outsider when it comes to the will to get published. My first story was inspired by a contest, then I got asked to continue it. While some don't consider my publishing credits as "real," they pay the bills. So publication is something I've never striven for. If "New York" happens, cool. If not, I'm happy just as long as I can write and pay the bills. I don't know. I just feel weird.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery DeBow, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the passion item. I think a lot of writers do write out of a kind of therapy and if they succeed then some of the urge to write is gone. I had a friend who stopped writing for quite a while because he said he was just too ‘happy’ to right. He didn’t need it. And I’ve felt something of that with Lana as well, so you and hubby are in good company.

Leigh Russell, I found that each of my books so far has felt quite different while I was writing them, and even different at different points within the book. Congrats on the draft! Good work! I love writing and want to keep it a part of my life, but I realize I could live without it if I had to.

Sidney, there’s certainly something to be said for that physical energy, and mental energy at younger ages. For me the 20s were grad school and establishing my academic career, and the most passionate writing came in the 30s and early 40s. And responsibilities certainly play a roll.

Cinnamon, thanks for visiting. I definitely see that writers, and other artists too, change their themes with maturity. I sometimes think that some authors become half ashamed of the ‘excesses” of their youth and tone things down, but I don’t think toning it down hardly ever works with art of any kind. It is very sad about Pratchett.

Clare2e, I actually find my discipline cracking more now than I did when I was in my 20s, 30s, and early 40s, but part of that was the demands of my career. I didn’t have time to set back. Now that I have more time to do so I find I like it!

jodi, the very act of killing oneself seems to suggest some of the passion is still there, if misguided.

Mark, some research I know of says that poets commit suicide at a higher rate than other prose writers. I don’t know about writers as opposed to other types of jobs. A lot of high stress jobs, like policemen, can lead to suicides. And certainly young people kill themselves at a higher rate than those in middle age. I was never one to believe that turmoil helped me write, but it certainly is grist for the creative mill. These days, the only time I could imagine suicide would be if my health just absolutely failed and I could no longer function.

Erik, I hadn’t really thought about age and health affecting length but I can see you are right. Good point. Gotta think about that some more. You’re right on about musicians. Look at Aerosmith man.

Steve Malley, plateaus definitely. I’ve seen it often in my own work. I will deal with the issue of alcoholism and drugs in another post. I think you’re right on. I suspect in Hemingway’s case and London’s (but not in Howard) that alcohol had gone a long way toward destroying the skills they valued.

G, At some point, for some folks, I think writing becomes such a habit that people can’t get away from it even if they no longer particularly desire to do it. I wonder about King and this.

laughingwolf, if it promises to ‘remain’ a chore I agree. But even fun things sometimes have “chore” qualities.

Charles Gramlich said...

Natasha, I think almost every writer has something unique about their path to publication and success. We're all weird!

Laura K. Curtis said...

For me, some of it has to do with the type writing, or the specific writing in question. My agent has a book I wrote a couple years ago and she thinks the time might be right for it now. She asked recently whether I wanted her to try to sell it and I told her to hang on to it for just a bit. It's the first of a series, and while I was very gung-ho about those characters, and I still love that story, I am not sure I want to commit to them anymore.

In that respect, I think it's sometimes time to hang up a genre or a storyline, time to try something new to knock you out of a rut, but not necessarily time to hang up your keyboard.

Is writing harder now than it was 20 years ago? You bet your sweet patootie. But it's no less a drive for me. I just have more on my plate than I did then, and there are other things that are more important. I wrote my first manuscript very quickly while I was living as a housesitter in the garage apartment in a town where there was very little to do. And it was a lifestyle I didn't mind.

At times, I think I'd like to go back to it, but realistically I know I wouldn't. I want my big kitchen, I want several dogs. And to have those things, I have to be able to pay bills I couldn't pay back then.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

You've brought up some very interesting points. These writers, I suspect, were very tortured souls who needed help but couldn't bring themselves to ask for it. If the drive to continue writing, painting, etc. is no longer there, and the artist feels that their identity is so caught up in that label, it can be devastating.

BernardL said...

I have a theory. With all their creative imagination, sometimes they don't have enough patience to wait for the dawn of a new day.

ivan said...


Things pass through and around us, viruses, diseases, furies.
To the young who think all is NOW, ancient words of wisdom like "My son, do not be afraid of sudden fear" mean little to them.
But there were cats in Mesapotamia doing the rag too, long long before us. Ten thouszand years of urban living. Was it from Proverbs? "Go to your room. Do what you have to do there. And come out again."
Which might mean having a drink or maybe considering the various problems, meditating.
Myself, I walk and walk and walk. And drink....
Hey, especially on a full moon which makes you crazy. Drink strong ale, Then have a steak. You'll be surprised to look back at yesterday's feeling state and say, "What the hell was that?"

Vesper said...

I think everybody should know when to retire, if they are able to recognize that moment, no matter how painful it is to accept it. Like Greta Garbo, for example.

As for loosing "it", each stage in our life has its own motivations and aspirations. I think that that immensely influences what we write. When inner or outer conflicts are resolved, when there is no need anymore to escape from a certain reality, when interest has gone away from a certain area for any number of reasons, when complacency has replaced the "fire", then the "it" might go away...

A very interesting post, Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laura K. Curtis, yes, I wouldn't want to give up what I have now, and with me being able to take summers off work lately it's been very nice for writing, although I've wasted more time than I'd like to have. I wish I had some of that 20 year ago energy though. Good point about maybe hanging up a specific 'storyline' as opposed to a keyboard.

Kathleen A. Ryan, it shows that there is a big danger in allowing your self identity get caught up in one thing, whether it be writing, art, work etc.

BernardL, could well be. I know I don't have as much patience as I'd like to have. And it is certainly true that everything changes so patience is a strong virtue

ivan, I remember the intensity with which I felt certain things as a child or teenager, and how those things seem so alien to me now. There is a horrible risk in acting too quick on the feelings of "now."

Vesper, good points, maybe loosing it isn't quite the right term. At least in some cases it's a choice based upon changes in our experiences and world.

Middle Ditch said...

I don't think age has anything to do with losing it but what about ego?

Shauna Roberts said...

Lots of comments here, but I find most don't resonate with me. I believe the creative drive is pretty much a constant in a creative person's personality, but the drive can be satisfied in many ways beside the way they started out. The ultimate creative act, which also heavily detracts from other creative acts, is having kids. Although I know I should save my creativity for my writing, I still siphon some off for gardening, sewing, cooking, knitting, organizing my office, and other things less important to me than writing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Drive, concentration, creativity, the ability to come up with the right word immediately, physical abilities-like eye sight. I just wish I had been doing it when I was young instead of starting at 50.
I have plenty of ideas though-perhaps because I didn't write when I was young.

sage said...

Let's not leave out the women, Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven, Anne Sexton also found a way to check out... but not sure they through their writing days were over... I don't know if I'd throw London in there--but alcoholism does seem to be common among writers.

I think we all go through seasons and if we didn't, we'd get pretty boring. Wasn't Hemingway considered washed up after WW2, then he published "The Old Man and the Sea?"

Charles Gramlich said...

Middle Ditch, maybe not just age, but there may be issues surrounding ill health, especially if it is something related to brain health. I'm not sure what you maen about ego.

Shauna Roberts, that's true, we can be creative in more ways that the ones considered traditional. I'd like to investigate more about the idea that creativity might be spread somewhat thin over many things.

pattinase, there are physical tolls we have to pay for sure. I certainly see it in my own writing.

Shauna Roberts said...

The epitome of "creativity spread somewhat thin over many things" was Leonardo da Vinci. An expert musician, composer, engineer, painter, sculptor, inventor, and on and on. If he had focused on just a couple of his talents, he would probably have been more productive.

Maalie said...

Apparently Captain FitzRoy (of Darwin's Beagle fame), a devout creationist, also shot himself when he realised the evidence against Genesis was stacking up.

Cloudia said...

I used to be terrified of losing it! Now I trust that the magic will happen. My drive was mostly a catch-up, or inferiority complex. Now I trust the process, and post to my blog and write my column because it is who I am and because it hooks me to all these cool people like you. Our concentration my change as we age, but it is just that our spirit is concentrated on things not-worldly. What used to be due to work and technique, now comes as a gift from reality, assisted by (writing)muscle memory. But don;t go by me...I've always been an outlayer ;-]
Aloha, Charles

Comfort Spiral

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna Roberts, probably so. This kind of thinking arises for me, in a lesser way, when I wonder whether I should switch between genres so frequently, and sometimes write poetry. Maybe I'd be better to focus on just one genre. hard to know and it may not be the same thing at all.

Maalie, yes, I've heard that, and that part of the reason is that he blamed himself to some extent because it was on the voyage he captained that Darwin found much of his evidence for evolution.

Cloudia, I still worry sometimes, but I think it is mostly worry about my health and the issues that may bring. Other than that I don't see a lot of change in my productivity and habits.

Barbara Martin said...

As writers we have different stories to tell, some we are more enthused about. I still have a passion to write more fantaasies and perhaps a western or two.

Rick said...

May I re-slant your question? Okay, I'll take that as a yes!

Should younger writers simply hang up their guns? They don't have "it" yet. So if not having it is reason to stop writing, then we should all have quit writing long ago.

Younger writers frequently lack focus. Is this an age issue? Should they quit because of this.

And they frequently lack the will power to do their best work as self-discipline is always a work in progress. Should they cease to write? Should they hang up their guns?

Should only those at the peak of their powers write? Are there no good ideas and compelling works produced by writers young and old not at their prime?

And exactly what is our prime? Is it when we are writing our best? Is spring better than fall? Is summer better than winter? Each is as season unto itself leading to the next in an endless cycle. I think it is the same with writing. We should write regardless. Always write.

Beginners should write to get better. Older writers should do the same. Ray Bradbury, at his age, is still better than 99% of the working today.

And should we really compare ourselves to our former selves? Do past glories imagined our real have to haunt our lives like vindictive shadows? Must the imagine possibilities of beginning writers weigh them down until their potentialites are crushed beneath the resignation that they can never be as great as others before them?

Old or young, we should write because we love it. Beginner or seasoned professional, it's still the same issue.

Wonderful, thought-provoking post, Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara Martin, that's true. I feel differently about different stories. Sometimes raging with enthusiasm, sometimes not so much.

Rick, Good thoughts. I certainly think that while one's skills are "rising," then you definitely keep going. I don't know so clearly about when one's skills are falling. I don't think that necessarily means one should quit, but it's an interesting thought experiment. Is there ever a time to stop? I used the gun analogy because of the old stories about gunfighters starting to lose their edge, for whatever reason, and thus being more likely to get killed in a gunfight. Certainly it's not a perfect analogy given that nothing similar is going to happen to us as writers if we "lose a step." I'm very happy with all the comments, I got, though. Good thoughts coming out.

Chris Benjamin said...

I read somewhere that great artists usually have about a 10-year window of true greatness. For Bob Dylan it was the mid-60s to mid-70s, they say, for Woody Guthrie it was the 40s, they say. Guthrie got sick after that, and Dylan got sick of the fame. But Dylan has continued to produce some amazing material and won grammies and oscars, so maybe indeed his style just changed.

It's an interesting topic, and I do wonder if, once my dream of seeing my first novel published is realized, I will have the drive to do it again.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

Herein lies my worst fear in some ways. I think that a person gets sick of life and bored and that is the end. The best thing, I believe, is to stay interested in the past, present, and future as much as you can. I do think any artistic life exacts a pretty high price -- just on a pratical level, staying in your mind in a big bunch of emotion (usually sad emotions) isn't a recipe for the most stable life. I'm okay with that -- nothing is without cost. I don't tend toward suicide myself, but I completely understand how those guys did.

j said...

I'd never thought about age having an influence over creativity. It has occurred some in our home in regards to helping my kids with projects. When the oldest was in elementary school, I had tons of ideas. Now with the third child I say "Ask you father."

*This doesn't actually apply to your post, I know, but I am in full Mommy-mode this week :)

Anonymous said...

Dammit Heff, we better stay out of this one. The intellectual types are talking and posting long comments. Our simple one-liners might not fit in, and shit.

Wil Harrison.com

Charles Gramlich said...

benjibopper, Most great mathemeticians and chess players have their best years in their 20s and 30s. There is definitely some brain effects going on there. I wondered that about my first novel too, but it turned out it kind of increased my drive to get a second one published so the first wouldn't be viewed as a fluke.

Michelle, I agree, and I'm lucky in that I'm interested in so many things that if I didn't have one to obsess over I could easily find a dozen others. I also agree that artistic lives do exact a toll. It can wear you out.

jennifer, I think it does apply, and shows that creativity may also be strongly influenced by environment and demands on our time. More kids, more demands.

Wil, well, the main problem I see, Wil, is that you're talking to someone who isn't even here. Finding out whether Heff is a figment of your imagination, and I'm not convinced of the answer to that yet, we could be assigning you a title like "delusional."

O'Neil De Noux said...

Interesting article, Sir Charles.
As I write my latest novel and re-read what I've written so far, I know I'm writing better than I ever have and feel I will continue to improve because the writing is all that matters. I think I am fortunate in that.

When we lost George (Alec Effinger) at around the age I am now, I don't feel he was in the same position. He was worn down by medical problems and, frankly, by life. Then again, he started with so much more talent and I do miss him as a friend and mentor and the world misses the stories and books he never got to write. For those unfamiliar with George he died of natural causes, nothing like Hemingway or Howard or even London.

Having a heart condition did change my life, however. It's forced me to narrow my focus because, I'll say it again - the writing is all that matters.

Miladysa said...

I bet they all got it back the moment they hit the other side.

I haven't had time to read all the other comments but I agree with Avery regarding priorities. I've lost it recently and fingers crossed I get it back before I hit the other side :)

Charles Gramlich said...

O'neil, good to see you man. GLad you are feeling fit. I'm definitely writing differently these days. Occassionally a line or paragraph will strike me and I know I couldn't have achieved that effect earlier in my career, but I also sometimes read my older stuff and am amazed at the passion there. Anyway, good to see you.

Miladysa, there are certainly those temporary moments when things come to a standstill, but I think most often those are the kind of plateaus that Steve Malley was talking about.

SzélsőFa said...

A very interesting post again, Charles - I will surely read Part II.
in the meantime, *it* might refer to a way to express themselves, a need to solve problems in one special way, that is, in writing. if there is another, more successful way is found, there's no need to undergo the hard work of writing.
perhaps this was not the case with the three acknowledged writers you mentioned... I don't know.

all I know is that when I was deeply involved in an online game I did not write at all. it seemed to me that all that triggered my writing had gone.
sorry for being so personal, but that was the only way I was able to contribute.

Charles Gramlich said...

SzélsőFa, I remember when I got deeply involved in online Role playing and really cut back substantially on my writing because I was doing it there. It's certainly true that focus can change.

cs harris said...

I suspect the perceived deterioration in their writing was simply one of several things that drove those men to suicide. That said, I think many writers do decline with time. Maybe it's that we all have certain things to say and once you've said then, you start to feel as if you're repeating yourself. Add to that age, a loss of energy, and--in the case of the ubersuccuessful--no longer being hungry. I can think of a lot of bestselling authors who should have quit writing 20-100 books ago. Then again, many of them have actually quit, and simply hire young, hungry ghost writers!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I don't go with the age thing. I think that artists work matures as they themselves age. Maybe they lose a certain hunger but there's no reason for their work not to continue to sparkle. Agree about King and Koontz, though. Maybe their genres are better suited to the youth.

Lana Gramlich said...

Where does one go when one reaches the top of their profession, anyway? Roger Waters went mad. M*A*S*H* went too far. This is in line with my belief that the general concept of "heaven" would eventually turn into the worst kind of hell.

Travis Cody said...

I'm going to suggest that the loss of "it", whatever "it" is, might be due to no longer having a story to tell. Even if a prolific writer seems to be telling the same story over and over again, I suspect that he still feels like he has his story that he wants to tell, so he continues to write it.

Perhaps when he's told the story he has always longed to tell, his motivation to write changes or subsides completely.

And perhaps when a writer is so wedded to the story he is telling that when he has told it, he is empty. And some react to that emptiness by ending life rather than searching for something else to fill it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, there's definitely something to be said for being hungry, and when that hungry is fed.

Gary, ARCHAVIST, it may be, also that King and Koontz are still marketed in the same old way although their writing has changed.

Lana Gramlich, heaven would have to be pretty flexible to accomodate everyone.

Travis, I see a lot of writers who really do seem to have that 'story" or a few "stories" that they have to get out. I suppose when that is gone you have to change or die.

Mary Witzl said...

I might be wrong, but I think Hemingway lost other powers and that is what made him pull the trigger.

If I lost my drive to create, I think I'd find another one. I know I'd try. Life seems too short already. As long as I have any kind of quality of life, I want to do the George Bernard Shaw thing and use myself right up.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mary, Hemingway definitely was suffering some serious health issues after years of abusing himself. There are probably a lot of factors invovled in any suicide.