Newspaper article International New York Times

Do Money Woes Spur Creativity, or Stifle It?

Newspaper article International New York Times

Do Money Woes Spur Creativity, or Stifle It?

Article excerpt

Faulkner wrote "As I Lay Dying" while he worked night shifts in a university boiler room.

'As I Lay Dying' was written while Faulkner worked night shifts in a university boiler room.

Marcel Proust never had a job. Emily Dickinson never had a job. Gustave Flaubert, Sartre believed, exaggerated or fabricated an epileptic condition so as to get out of law school and instead move back in with his mother.

Vladimir Nabokov was born into vast wealth, lost most everything, eventually landed a teaching position at one university and then another, wrote arguably his best works during that time, and later retired to Switzerland. His wife, Vera, by his account, served him as a secretary, typist, chauffeur, teaching assistant, research assistant ... and so on.

Muriel Spark's husband was not able to help as Vera was; he turned out to be mentally unwell, and she left him behind in Rhodesia. She then made a living doing this and that, and that and this, and published her first novel at 39, after which she wrote 21 more novels. Alice Munro published her first book at 37, after having gone to university on a scholarship and raised her children; then, after that, she wrote quite a bit more.

James Baldwin had very little money, wrote his early work while doing this and that, was helped out as a teenager by the painter Beauford Delaney and, later, was helped out by the inexpensive cost of living in Paris at the time.

Henry Miller had a remarkable ability to get people to pay for his meals and give him places to sleep. Often in Paris.

Richard Wright, before his late move to Paris, worked as a postal clerk; he later worked on the W.P.A. Federal Writers' Project guidebook to New York, a magazine prize helped him publish his first collection of stories and a Guggenheim fellowship helped him have time to write "Native Son."

Of William Faulkner, it is said that bags of undelivered mail were found, from a brief job as postmaster he performed only spottily. "As I Lay Dying" was written while he worked night shifts in a university boiler room. He eventually, for money, took a job writing for Hollywood, though he expressed ambivalence about movies, even if he liked hunting with Howard Hawks. …

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