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Cervantes, Rimbaud, Chekhov, Yeats

Question of the day: How many writers keep getting better until the end? Or how maybe, how few? You could throw Shakespeare in there, since the Tempest is masterful. Truman Capote and Harper Lee don't count, since Capote could never finish another book after In Cold Blood and Lee could finish only one. Joyce disappeared into Finnegans and never reappeared. Who am I missing?

And I wonder why? Does genius require a physical vigor, or emotional, or both, lost over time?

Sorry, that's three questions.

 

Comments 9

 
Katherine Gregor on Sunday, 13 July 2014 09:55

Not educated enough to agree or disagree. But if it is true – could it be because many people, as they get older, retract more and more into their own world and cut themselves off other people's views, outside experiences, and are perhaps less willing to be challenged? A bit like a river that slowly dries into a stagnant pond?

I think many composers and painters got better with age.

Not educated enough to agree or disagree. But if it is true – could it be because many people, as they get older, retract more and more into their own world and cut themselves off other people's views, outside experiences, and are perhaps less willing to be challenged? A bit like a river that slowly dries into a stagnant pond? I think many composers and painters got better with age.
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 13 July 2014 10:43

Katia raises some excellent points. One thing I profoundly believe is that writers get better the more they practise the craft and rely on the 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration ratio! (With the growth of self-publishing, there are too many people ready to make money out of this natural process by meddling and causing confusion among writers.)

Yes, you do need stamina, mental, psychological, emotional, to write, but self-doubt is the only real enemy. What geniuses do have in common is perseverance.

I'm not sufficiently familiar with the life circumstances of all those you mention, but am inclined to think that the closer you get to heaven/universal truth, whether in terms of allotted span, or revelation, the better that is manifest through human gifts.

Katia raises some excellent points. One thing I profoundly believe is that writers get better the more they practise the craft and rely on the 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration ratio! (With the growth of self-publishing, there are too many people ready to make money out of this natural process by meddling and causing confusion among writers.) Yes, you do need stamina, mental, psychological, emotional, to write, but self-doubt is the only real enemy. What geniuses do have in common is perseverance. I'm not sufficiently familiar with the life circumstances of all those you mention, but am inclined to think that the closer you get to heaven/universal truth, whether in terms of allotted span, or revelation, the better that is manifest through human gifts.
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 13 July 2014 16:31

You're right, Katherine - I don't notice it as much in other arts, maybe because I am less able to judge their quality. Mozart was composing his requiem when he died, and Beethoven finished with the Ode to Joy. Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel 40 years before his death, but Monet was painting his garden until he passed away. I think there is a distinction to be found between literature and other arts, but I can't say why it should be. Rosy, I agree that a writer's craft improves with practice; does that mean the inspiration wanes, or the energy?
I am puzzled. :)

You're right, Katherine - I don't notice it as much in other arts, maybe because I am less able to judge their quality. Mozart was composing his requiem when he died, and Beethoven finished with the Ode to Joy. Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel 40 years before his death, but Monet was painting his garden until he passed away. I think there is a distinction to be found between literature and other arts, but I can't say why it should be. Rosy, I agree that a writer's craft improves with practice; does that mean the inspiration wanes, or the energy? I am puzzled. :)
Rosy Cole on Monday, 14 July 2014 11:19

No, not at all. Quite the reverse, even when the body begins to fail, as is borne out by some of the great names mentioned above. And perhaps that it something that distinguishes true genius from the rest. Nothing stops them while they have brain and breath.

I tend to think that the notion of 'bright idea' is a different thing from 'inspiration'. Inspiration only happens when we're fully launched upon, and committed to, a piece of writing. It comes some way through, quite often towards the end! This is why we need commitment to writing itself, by continued practice. It's a life tool and helps us chart our journey.

As I see it, genius is something quite separate from super-intelligence. It is the gift of penetrating insight, but even more than that, it is spiritual power. The 'genie in the bottle' may be force for either good or bad.

Let's not forget that the hallmarks of genius, whatever they be, are seldom appreciated in the lifetime of the possessor!

No, not at all. Quite the reverse, even when the body begins to fail, as is borne out by some of the great names mentioned above. And perhaps that it something that distinguishes true genius from the rest. Nothing stops them while they have brain and breath. I tend to think that the notion of 'bright idea' is a different thing from 'inspiration'. Inspiration only happens when we're fully launched upon, and committed to, a piece of writing. It comes some way through, quite often towards the end! This is why we need commitment to writing itself, by continued practice. It's a life tool and helps us chart our journey. As I see it, genius is something quite separate from super-intelligence. It is the gift of penetrating insight, but even more than that, it is spiritual power. The 'genie in the bottle' may be force for either good or bad. Let's not forget that the hallmarks of genius, whatever they be, are seldom appreciated in the lifetime of the possessor!
Stephen Evans on Monday, 14 July 2014 18:40

I agree that genius and intelligence are not the same, and that genius is a retrospective label. I started thinking about this while watching the movie Proof, about a mentally ill mathematical genius. Literature is closer to mathematics than painting, and literary genius often wanes, or maybe is just found in smaller doses. Maybe we should like Hardy turn to poetry in the end. Not a bad end at that.

I agree that genius and intelligence are not the same, and that genius is a retrospective label. I started thinking about this while watching the movie Proof, about a mentally ill mathematical genius. Literature is closer to mathematics than painting, and literary genius often wanes, or maybe is just found in smaller doses. Maybe we should like Hardy turn to poetry in the end. Not a bad end at that.
Rosy Cole on Monday, 14 July 2014 23:36

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with the latter and am certainly looking forward to that!

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with the latter and am certainly looking forward to that!
Ken Hartke on Friday, 18 July 2014 18:30

Having spent time with geniuses I most prefer intelligence.

Having spent time with geniuses I most prefer intelligence.
Stephen Evans on Wednesday, 23 November 2022 14:42

It's interesting that I posted this in this 2014. That year I wrote two and a half books (Let Me Count the Ways, Painting Sunsets, and Funny Thing Is) and a play. In the years since then I published those books (and more) and the play has been produced locally. I have also written half a dozen or so screenplays. We'll see what the years ahead bring. But at the moment I am feeling pretty good about staying creative.

It's interesting that I posted this in this 2014. That year I wrote two and a half books (Let Me Count the Ways, Painting Sunsets, and Funny Thing Is) and a play. In the years since then I published those books (and more) and the play has been produced locally. I have also written half a dozen or so screenplays. We'll see what the years ahead bring. But at the moment I am feeling pretty good about staying creative.
gr8word on Friday, 25 November 2022 22:25

Excellent news! We hope there's a touch of correlation with the causation :-) That's what we're here for.

Excellent news! We hope there's a touch of correlation with the causation :-) That's what we're here for.
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