As someone who commissions, edits and writes book reviews, I am often asked when I am going to write my own first novel. The answer is, probably, never. Editing someone else’s writing is one thing. Reviewing it is another skill entirely. (And those critics who only like to pounce on the work of an inferior writer, and lay into it with great verbal dexterity are concealing an awkward secret: it is much harder to review great writing than bad.) However, I’ve read enough books both magnificent and dreadful to know that writing one is another proposition entirely, and I for one am not up to it.
That’s why I feel pressured by all these recent demands to be creative. First it was Sir Quentin Blake, the beloved illustrator of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, whose own creative genius adorned the early reading of many a growing bookworm. Earlier this month, he announced that he is “completely against” using colouring books as a way into drawing, because they stifle children’s creativity. With a £10.99 colouring book for adults at No 5 in the hardback bestseller chart for last week, this should be a worry. Except that these books are appealing to adults precisely because they are not creative: when you’ve had a hard week at work making a million stressful decisions, there is something blissful about colouring inside someone else’s lines.
Last week, arts leaders criticised the Education Secretary, arguing that the decline in arts, music and drama in schools is threatening creativity. Now I’m all for valuing an education in the arts, but I agree with Kenneth Tharp, the chief executive of the contemporary dance centre The Place: “It is what helps us to understand what it is to be fully human.” And humanity includes those of us who can’t hold a note.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the type of people I hang out with, but when I mention to friends that I am not creative and I’m much happier having accepted it, they react as if I had announced that I have an IQ of seven, and that’s just fine by me. In fact, I am practical and good at other things. I may never paint inspiring landscapes, but you should see me gloss a piece of skirting.
That’s still not good enough for some people. Will Gompertz, the BBC’s Arts Editor, has just released a book called Think Like an Artist... and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life, in which he exhorts readers: “We are all artists. We just have to believe it. That’s what artists do.”
If only the diet industry pushed the idea that we are all size 10, we just have to believe it, the world may be a happier place, but creativity is the only personal characteristic about which such nonsense is spouted. We are not all artists, and nor should we be! That’s why I leave creating to creative people. And when they want a shelf put up, they can come to me.Reuse content