I came across a poem by Marge Piercy in the library today. It’s called “For The Young Who Want To,” and it begins like this:
Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.
Artists of all kinds have felt this way; experienced these attitudes. The thin and blurry line that separates talent from delusion is so nebulous, so subjective–yet the way others see us, and often the way we see ourselves, is based upon it.
We fear not being taken seriously. The young fear being looked at indulgently, their work dismissed as unpolished or shallow. The older fear being dismissed as “not good enough” and not even having the excuse of youth.
We fear. We fear the “tedious delusion” more than we fear harsh criticism. We’d almost rather be called bad than banal.
Why do we expose ourselves to this kind of judgment?
Oh, right. Because writing means too much for us to stop, ever, unless our soul dries up.
And what’s so bad about knitting, anyway?