Why I Cook

Well, besides the obvious that we have to eat something.  It’s a matter of creation.  It’s not high, great art, it’s not always a delight to the senses, but I make stuff.  Ditto for the silly little apron my daughter has, or the cross-stitch on some of the things her sister has, or the Christmas Stockings I made last year.

Now, I soon observed a thing that inspired me with melancholy, and would have led on to outright despair if I had not had the bumptiousness to ignore it. While I was writing my vile stuff, I thought it was pretty good, that the creative juices were flowing well, and that I was a talent that would be heard from at no distant date. Upon rereading my output in cold blood, weeks or months later, I could see it was the most appalling rubbish. And though my technique rapidly improved, this schizophrenic discontinuity between the act of creation and the brutal reality of self-criticism carried on undiminished right into my twenties. I had been writing with malice aforethought for ten years or more before I wrote anything that I could stand to read after an interval. How did this happen? My taste at 22 was vastly better than it was at 12, yet I seemed as far away from writing good fiction as ever. I can think of three processes at work, which, taken together, seem sufficient to cover the facts.

First, any creative activity, however badly done, is likely to be fun. The rush of inspiration, the pleasure of working at your craft, the feeling of doing something you have only watched before—these things bring you joy, even though the finished product cannot possibly bring joy to anyone else. Frederik Pohl hits it off perfectly in describing his APA days. To this day, as he says in The Way the Future Was, he vividly remembers the feel of his apazine in his hands, the crinkle of the paper, the smell of the ink, the heady sense of being an auteur; but he cannot for the life of him remember anything about the actual contents. In a way, it hardly matters. For art, any art, is first and foremost a toy, whether or not the artist is any good.

via Sturgeon’s Law School.


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