JMW Turner said it is only when we cease to be fearful that we begin to create. This has to be true and may be growing more so. Creativity often requires divergence from accepted norms. This is not to sit in praise of the transgressive, which can often be banal. But it is to acknowledge that stepping off the path of orthodoxy bears a cost.
This is a long-winded way of introducing my own creative dilemma. In 2013 a think tank was kind enough to publish my book about family size. It was a subject chosen for several reasons, one of which was that it was insufficiently controversial to get me the sack.
To be even-handed, news presenters must appear impartial. The better ones do this without succumbing to blandness.
The grander ones, especially if their private prejudices accord with prevailing mores, sometimes let their petticoats show. Those media big beasts are often further along journalism’s evolutionary track. No mortgage, fat pension, brimful awards cabinet, grown-up children. I have ticked none of those boxes. And yet the call of the publisher still sounds its siren song.
Which is why my new book proposal currently sits with a literary agent introduced to me by a highly successful, hugely tendentious and humblingly plucky author. His example makes me feel cowardly and shallow, which is excessively self-critical. He is childless and I am anything but.
My 2013 book sold very few copies. But because it was printed by a think tank, sales were not the measure of success. Sparking debate was. And in that respect it did well.
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