The Creative Artist

Some people collect things, I collect stuff. What’s the difference? Probably nothing, but I just like stuff better.

Occasionally, when I have trouble sleeping, I seek the comfort of my ‘inner sanctum’. It’s in our basement and there I spend most of the time going through my stuff. After a recent lost bout with The Sandman, I came across a newspaper clipping I’ve had for more decades than I care to count.

In the early sixties I often read a column by Sidney J. Harris. He was an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and later for the Chicago Sun-Times. Once in a while I would find his column worthy of saving. I would clip it out of the paper and save it with my stuff.

Here now is that column I cut from one of those paper 49 years ago, to be painfully exact:

A college student majoring in music asked me after a lecture not long ago, “What would you say is the chief difference between the artist and the layman?”

I gave him some long clumsy and not quite satisfactory answer. The question rang a dim bell in my mind, however, and upon returning home I hunted through my library and eventually found what I had been looking for.

It was a paragraph from the preface to a collection of short plays, The Angel That Troubled the Waters, published by Thorton Wilder nearly 40 years ago. In speaking of the anguish involved in the creative process, Wilder says

“An artist is one who knows how life should be lived at its best and is always aware of how badly he is doing it. An artist is one who knows he is failing in living and feeds his remorse by making something fair, and a lay man is one who suspects he is failing in living but is consoled by his success in golf, in love, or in business”.

Sidney J. Harris (1963)

Thanks for reading, Manuel (2012)


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