Sunday 16 March 2014

Why no great art is produced anymore (a possible explanation)

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post. The reasons for this are simple, in my spare time at home, I have been writing my book, I have made great progress (by my own meagre standards) and thus, writing a blog post about procrastination would be slightly disingenuous. I am writing this having just finished Chapter 2 (I know, in the 6 weeks since I have been writing this blog about writing a book, I have written very little of the book, and therein lies the very point of the blog) and felt I deserved a little break from the creative process, to write something with less point, and a little more ramble.

I am currently sat in my lovely summer house, which has been bathed in sunlight and heat for the last week (and which I have not had time to use for the purposes of writing in any of that time) feeling distinctly cold, and glad of the heat of my laptop preventing me from freezing. That sentence served no purpose at all, sorry, I just wanted to tell somebody, most of the free time for writing I have squeezed in over the last week or so has been indoors, in front of the fire, trying to ignore the television. Which is rather more to my point.
I got to thinking to myself about why it is that I find it so hard to get time to write, when plenty of other authors from the past had full time jobs and numerous other commitments, and they had no trouble at all fitting it in. And I decided to blame television. Well, not just television, also books, the internet, movies and any other mass media you care to think of.
Way back in the dim and distant past, the story tellers could make an honest living travelling from village to village telling tales of heroes and villains, and good versus evil to wide eyed children and adults round the fire in the night times, as few could read, and for those who could, books were pretty hard to come by. Caxton changed that quite nicely with the printing press, but even then, only the educated and wealthy could get hold of a gripping adventure to read to themselves, and I suspect that they told the storied within to the uneducated around them, leaving a huge amount of time for everybody to be utterly bored in.
As this is where the urge to create and make wonderful things comes from, boredom. Faced with huge swathes of time with nothing to do, people will turn to making stuff up, stories, songs, drawing pictures etc. etc. I am fairly sure that had I not been bored out of my mind one afternoon when I was a young lad, I would not have picked up my Dad's guitar and decided to learn how to play it. And me and my friend Tom would not have then started writing terrible songs, and we wouldn't have started a band, and I might have had a proper career and not still been dicking about with guitars 30 years later, but that's beside the point a bit.

Back in the days of Shakespeare et al, the poor and uneducated would probably get out to see a couple of plays a week if they were lucky, by the 19th century similarly most entertainment would still be from the theatre (I'm including the Music Hall, Opera, ballet and Vaudeville in that) though there would now be books and a reader in most homes, and a piano in the corner for a jolly old sing song in the evening. Still a great amount of time to sit around being bored, and thus possibly inspired to make stuff (and not just the poor and uneducated, even the rich are mostly sitting around not being entertained, even more so, as they aren't having to go down mines and up chimneys for 27 hours a day to earn a living). Cue swathes of poets filled with opium creating marvellous strange worlds for all of us. Then came the movies, radio and Television. All marvellous technological innovations (which more than likely did for the revenues previously enjoyed by actors, musicians, and even the printers printing the books).

Even when I was a kid, the TV didn't come on til late, and it turned off relatively early, even when I was a teenager, all you got after 1 in the morning was pages from ceefax. And a great deal of the output on the 4 channels we had by then, would not have been anything you wanted to watch. A shelf full of video tapes was the answer to that particular problem, but again, expensive, and unlikely to fill all your time. Result, I got to be that bored kid who learned to play his Dad's guitar and wrote songs.

However, today, DVDs are cheap and plentiful, the TV is on twenty four hours a day if you want it to be, and if you look hard enough, you can pretty much find something you want to watch on it at any time of day, all day long. This leads the lazy (hello, pleased to meet you, my name is Dave, and I count myself among the lazy) to relax by just turning on the TV, having a cup of tea (bottle of wine, can of lager, line of coke, syringeful of skag, insert your recreational activity of choice here) and zoning out to something somebody else created so you don't have to be bored. I'm sure I don't need to point out here that most of this output is considerably less good than it used to be 30 years ago when there were only 4 channels that weren't on for 24 hours a day, and didn't have to cram the schedules with filler (I just did though). I think there may be a link. Thus the brain gets the stories it craves, and it doesn't need to make any up for itself to satiate the desire to be entertained.

And that's why I'm going to go back in the house and watch telly for the rest of the evening.

N.B. There are no historical facts whatsoever in this blog, I plucked the whole thing out of my head while out walking the dog. Apologies for any historians now spluttering into their tea at my wild innacuracy, I only have an A level in history and none of it covered any of the areas I have explored in these writings.


  1. Good points Dave. I don't have a tv currently thanks to the cat pissing up it but I have t'internet and corresponding choice of 'quality' TV at my finger tips. As such I find it hard to discipline myself to do anything other than veg in front of it. Maybe that's my role in life, like so many of us - a tv consumer... I just bypass the ads!

    1. I too have lost TVs to cats. Mine was due to vomit down the back of a large CRT TV. It was not a good day.
      Just so long as you don't become one of those awful "I don't have a TV actually" types, whilst still watching lots of TV on your computer, you'll be fine. Those who really eschew TV are fine with me, it's just those who pretend that annoy. Now stop wasting time reading stuff on the internet, and get some work done Steve.