I think I might have a Phd. I mean I’m not sure because I haven’t worn a weird hat or been given a certificate, but I have been congratulated – a lot. It’s been lovely. I’ve drunk Prosecco and people have said nice things and I have demurred. ‘It’s only in Creative Writing,’ I say, as if that makes it worth less, as if writing doesn’t matter and being creative is something to be embarrassed about. Why do I do that?
OK, so am the kind of person who wouldn’t want to be in any club that had me as a member. I also tend to think that if I can do something then it has to be easy. I am in awe of people who can do the many things I can’t. I suppose that’s a personality thing but more than that I find myself colluding with the view that ‘soft’ subjects are for the intellectually feeble. I don’t argue when people talk of ‘Mickey Mouse’ subjects, when they denigrate those things that can’t be measured, weighed and scientifically valued. What am I thinking? Why does it have to be one or the other? Respect for the sciences should not involve contempt for the arts.
I’m sure I’m not the only writer to have internalised this value system. I could blame the patriarchy I suppose (I am inclined to blame it for most things.) I can’t blame my actual father as he was an artist and valued creativity both in the abstract and in his children. I could blame my education where those of us who were academic were steered away from anything remotely practical or creative: clever people don’t make things; they just criticise the things other people have made. It’s certainly true that we often pay ‘consultants’ advisors, critics etc more than those who do the work. Those who are most highly regarded in our society rarely demean themselves by getting their hands dirty. Too often creativity is only valued if it yields large sums of money, and as we all know, the most lucrative work may or may not be the most creatively successful
Perhaps as a society we are right to be wary of creativity. It is subversive, potentially radical, disruptive and challenging and exactly what we need right now. When the arts are under attack, when Classics, and Art History, Archaeology and Creative Writing are no longer available at ‘A’ level, when libraries are closing down and librarians sacked, maybe all of us practitioners, writers and artists, need to stand up for our subject and be prouder of what we do.
Another glass of Prosecco? Don’t mind it I do.