The decision to take my writing more seriously has brought this feeling into sharp relief: I have a long road ahead of me if I want to see my work in print or brought to life on screen; and to an agent, publisher or producer, I will begin life as a complete non-entity, up against very stiff competition, even if my writing has a degree of merit.
I think the idea of the Spear Carrier in drama is a really good illustration of how I'm feeling, and perhaps how most of us feel as human beings, from time to time. I came across a quote recently from the 1968 novel Rite of Passage, by Alexei Panshin, in which he describes the role:
A spear carrier is somebody who stands in the hall when Caesar passes, comes to attention and thumps his spear... A spear carrier is a character put in a story to be used like a piece of disposable tissue. The trouble is that each of us is his own hero, existing in a world of spear carriers.
This sums up nicely, I think, a familiar paradox. It doesn't matter how selfless we are as individuals, how lacking in narcissism, how full of compassion and empathy, we must necessarily be the heroes of our own story, inhabiting our own tiny part of the world, seeing things through our own eyes. And yet, to everyone other than those closest to us, we actually remain largely insignificant.
This spear carrier on Hadrian's Wall seems
It's difficult trying to make a mark in any creative field. And this difficulty is compounded by the nature of creativity itself. Most of the creative people I know are much like me: their creativity comes from deep within them, so the fruits of that creativity feel private and fragile, and can be very difficult to share with others.
reasonably happy with his lot in life.Photography © David Taylor Photography
But if anything is to be made of them in the wider world, they need to be put into the public domain, for others to enjoy, and learn from... and dislike... and criticise! This is a very real dilemma, but one which must be overcome if we are not to remain spear carriers.
I suppose the real trick - not easy to achieve - is to have the courage of our own convictions, and to take encouragement where we can. One of the things I've quickly discovered, to my surprise and delight, since I've been sharing my writing, is how much warmth and support there actually is out there in the creative community. Perhaps it's as simple as everyone being in the same boat, and being sensitive to how difficult the whole process is.
I'm particularly impressed by, and have felt very welcome at, RedBubble, a website where artists, photographers and writers share their work with others. The site has a 'Play Nice Policy', aimed at encouraging friendly feedback, and taking a very dim view of negative, personal and hurtful comments. This is perfect when you're just starting out and feel nervous of letting others see your work, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I've begun to realise that on RedBubble, everyone is allowed to be his own hero - there are no spear carriers - and perhaps that's the sort of environment we need if our creativity is to thrive and flourish, and develop to its full potential.