Roald Dahl: submission versus creativity

I’m reading Roald Dahl’s memoirs, Boy and Going Solo. Towards the end of Boy, he writes about his first regimented job as a salesperson for the Shell Corporation, for which he must wear a suit and sell kerosine:

I enjoyed it, I really did. I began to realise how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with foxed hours and a fixed salary and very little original thinking to do. The life of a writer is absolute hell compared with the life of a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scald him. If he is a writer of fiction he lives in a world of fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. Two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is pretty great. It is almost a shock. The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly every writer of fiction in the world drinks more whiskey than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith, hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.

To be an employee is to choose the path of least resistance. Self-motivation isn’t easy but absolute freedom is the ultimate consolation.

About

Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

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