Friday, June 21, 2013


Yes, I do recall that in my last post I said, "Don't procrastinate!" And I have done just that. I actually did write a blog a couple of months ago, but, being technically unskilled, lost the whole thing!

These unusual paintings are the work of my late mother, Reene Conroy. The style is called Naive, or Primitive. Think Grandma Moses! The point is, she didn't know she was an artist until she was sixty-two, and began taking art classes. The instructor wisely pointed out that her style was not ordinary, and told her to simply go home and paint what she wanted. She felt her way at first, and then began to hit her stride. The result? The decade when she was age in her sixties and early seventies proved the happiest and most productive of her life.

She had never considered herself more than an ordinary housewife, and in the 1940s and 50s women were expected to have no interests outside their homes, husbands and children. (My father, by the way, was an excellent carpenter, and a skilled fisherman!) Talent, therefore, can crop up in anyone. We are born with it, but often do not know it, or discover it, until time and circumstances bring it out in us.

I, for instance, had known I wanted to be a writer since the age of six, but time and circumstance, and again the expectation loaded into women's lives, were still very much in evidence when I married. (And my own husband is the most talented man with his hands I have ever met. He built our house, he makes clocks, he can build boats, etcetera!) It was unthinkable to put oneself first; the house, husband and family must be one's first concerns. So, I did not have a book published until I was sixty-one. Oh, a few short stories and magazine articles, but how I wish I had knuckled down to work on my own talent earlier in my life. All those stories still buzzing in my head may be finished and in print! Alas, talent on its own gets nowhere. The extra requirement, across the whole panorama of all artistry, from ballet through poetry to song, is persistence and hard work. And a little luck helps!

But there is talent abounding that receives no publicity, no worldly success. I live in a small town, population 1200, and it is home to both a writers group, a photographers group, and artists. And musicians and singers, flower arrangers, the whole range. Yet the work of most of them has not received the recognition it deserves. That is the way of the world. In this day and age, compared to say a hundred years ago, or even fifty, there are thousands of people who attempt to make themselves, and the products of their activities, known. Too many talented people, so most of us must be pleased with mild, or local, success.

The world of book publishing is a brilliant example. It is a constant struggle for writers to be accepted, and  to stand out from the crowd of their peers. (Without resorting to grab attention by means of sensational and often salacious subject matter!) But publishing has become more and more a commercial enterprise. Of course it always has been, but now the consideration of a book (by print publishers, less by electronic-based companies) is only, it appears: Will it sell 50,000 copies?

I recall reading that Jane Austen's original manuscripts were not good, that her publisher had to encourage her to revise and improve her work until it could decently appear in print. I have heard the same of the Australian autobiography "A Fortunate Life", by A.B. Facey, initally unacceptable by today's standards but nurtured by its editors into a classic. Hans Christian Anderson, the great Danish teller of fairytales, in his youth wanted to write only great tragedies. Someone read them and, I quote, "saw gleams of gold among the rubbish." And now who doesn't know his name?

I think of the difficulties modern writers must face. Not only in writing their novels, but also marketing and publicising them. And I remember what I have learned about our long ago nomad and tribal ancestors. Their lives were much simpler. Those who could sing, sang. Those who could dance, danced. Those who could draw pictures, drew pictures. And those who could tell stories, told their stories.

Their existence was not a settled one, like ours. We have fixed homes to take care of, jobs to serve to earn the money to put food on the table, pay for our shelter and clothing and a thousand other things. The nomads had no such difficulties in their way. They could possibly leave their paintings on cave walls - what modern artist would not like to be responsible for Lascaux? They could compose music on simple pierced reeds and drums of hide and wood. They could tell tales which, for all we know, are the basis of all the legends of the world. Their names are unknown. It does not matter. Their works remain, if not in physical form, in the memories and traditions of the human race.

How many people since the beginnings of civilisation have possessed talent, yet not had the chance or education or will to use it? I remember a girl who attended high school at the same time I did, and sang like an angel. I heard many years later she had lost her voice. If not used, a gift is lost. Not everyone can be an artist of some kind, but all of us have areas of skill, no matter how humble. If we create a garden, if we scribble a letter to a friend, if we cook well for a family, if our house is comfortable or we dress ourselves attractively on a slim budget - oh, in many other ways, we have created. And creativity is never lost. No matter if no one sees it, or it is not recognised or appreciated, it has been added to all the productivity of talent on Earth. It is invisible, but it is immortal.


Mary Raimes Curtis said...

Hi, Monya: I have been meaning to get in touch since you left your interesting feral cat message on my blog: A Writer's Journey. I'm in the middle of a major move from a house that is now to big for this old biddy and downsizing to move into an apartment. So, unfortunately, I have been off the grid for a while. But today I tried to find time to update my blog and remembered to say "Hello" from sunny Nova Scotia--at least it's sunny at the moment. Take care and good luck with your writing. Mary

Monya Clayton said...

Good heavens, Mary, I have only just this minute opened my blog to post an entry, and see you left a comment a month ago!
Mitigating circumstances, though, since hubby has been in hospital 50 kms away for three surgeries in the last month. He's in recovery mode now, thank goodness.
Sunny Nova Scotia, I can imagine it only. I'm a Queensland dwelling Australian and our "winter" - you would laugh at it - is over and we're into a warm spring.
I do sympathise with your moving, I don't think I could ever do it again. I hope you're settling happily into your apartment and finding a place for everything.
I'm about to blog about the release of my new romance "An Unlikely Pair", on the 20th, at Muse It Up Publishing, in Canada! Hopefully the folk in the northern hemisphere will begin to be glad to read a love story set in Aussie summer.
Good luck with your own writing and take care of yourself, too.

Monya Clayton said...
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