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#236 Creativity and success

By Cathryn Wellner / January 7, 2012


There are days when I read the work of some author whose words zing, whose stories make me gasp, whose insight is like sun breaking through clouds. If that happens to be one of the days I’m kicking myself for my own poor contribution to the stream of words, I contemplate giving up my computer.

The writing compulsion is too strong in me to do anything so rash. Still, I found comfort in learning the 1961 Nobel Prize committee rejected J.R.R. Tolkien as a candidate because, as jury member Anders Osterling wrote, the author’s work “has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality.”

Lord of the Rings was sheer magic. I’d never been drawn to fantasy, but I read The Hobbit and the trilogy in one gulp. Frodo Baggins and Gollum were real to me. Work was an interruption, cooking a nuisance until I finally came to the last words of the last page.

Apparently the original Nobel Committee’s dismissal of Tolkien’s work is even ruder than the English translation, but the result is the same. A series that attracted millions of readers, was made into movies, and continues to sell was not worthy of the committee’s consideration.

I forgive myself for being reassured by the committee’s dismissal of a colossal storyteller. I’m only human. And, in fact, the failure was the committee’s, not Tolkien’s. His talent towered above the committee’s inability to connect with it.

So I read the comment, shake my head, laugh and write on. Writing is as essential to me as breathing. I make sense of the world and my life by searching for the words to describe it.

I don’t have to be the next J.R.R. Tolkien to justify the time I commit to writing. What I do have to do is what all who create must do: Listen to the outer and inner critics for anything useful they might offer. Dismiss what undermines the gift.

For a gift is what it is, that gem each of us offers to the world when we tap into the source of our passion and joy.

Photo credit: Jemimus, via Flickr Creative Commons (click on the photo to learn more)


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