The Madness of Our Art

Sometimes, I wonder what on earth I’m doing  in the writing business. Perhaps I’m a little (or a lot) crazy. I’ve chosen a difficult life. But then, we crazies belong with the arts, and I’m learning as I go. Imagery describing the madness associated with the arts and artist is a frequently used one. For example, I read that Kafka said, “To want to write and not write is to invite madness.” I read Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness by Leon Surmelian and was fascinated by the manner he tied in the work of the Muses (and the incumbent madness it brought the author) with the need of structure and method in writing. This book is out of print, so I’m glad I have my copy. I think I found it at a library sale in Texas.

One quotation of Henry James has always helped me. I was reminded of it when I read an article recently by Jeffrey Eugenides, author of Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides.  He uses Henry James’ quotation in his short article about writing. James said:

“We work in the dark–we do what we can–we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

I’ve once again memorized this quotation. So, as I grope in the darkness, looking for the handle of the doors that will lead me to successfully write and market my books, I’ll just do what I can with what I’ve got. As long as I write every day and keep my passion, I’ll remain a committed writer–and also, likely a mad one.