I picked up The Muse by Jessica Burton the other day. I bought it because it was in the Sunday Times best sellers list and I needed to read something by somebody new. It is different to many books that I have read in the past and I am enjoying it greatly. What I had not expected was that it might resonate with my own thoughts quite so much.
I am left with little choice this week but to quote from it:
When I began receiving public acknowledgement for a private act, something was essentially lost. My writing became an axis upon which all my identity and happiness hinged. It was now outward looking, a self-conscious performance. I was asked to repeat the pleasure again and again, until the facsimile of my act became the act itself.
I know exactly how this character is feeling! A friend spotted it in me a couple of weeks back and asked what I was planning to do about it. The truth is that I have no idea.
I am hugely excited and flattered that people like my current work but success brings some weird emotions. I want to make for myself! I miss the devil-may-care attitude and I feel cramped by the prescriptiveness of what I am making. I broke my New Year’s resolution to include something experimental in each firing within about 3 weeks because I was working so hard to satisfy the demand for my work.
I am dreadfully aware of how ungrateful this sounds and I am sorry for that but I confess to being scared at the moment that this is who I am. I have come up with an idea that people seem to like and now I am stuck on a production line.
To miss-quote Jessica Burton,
I have forgotten the genesis of my impulse; unbothered, pure creation, existing outside the parameters of success and failure.
I appreciate that this must seem rather conceited but I am easily bored and I have a feeling that it might be almost time to beat a retreat and start again before I forget why I make things. Who am I?