Preface to Music for Chameleons [excerpt]
My life – as an artist, at least – can be charted as precisely as a fever: the highs and lows, the very definite cycles.
I started writing when I was eight – out of the blue, uninspired by an example. I’d never known anyone who wrote; indeed I knew few people who read. But the fact was, the only four things that interested me were: reading books, going to the movies, tap dancing, and drawing pictures. Then one day I started writing, not knowing that I had chained myself for life to a noble and merciless master. When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended solely for self-flagellation.
But of course I didn’t know that. I wrote adventure stories, murder mysteries, comedy skits, tales that had been told me by former slaves and Civil War veterans. It was a lot of fun – at first. It stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good and bad writing, and then I made an even more alarming discovery: the difference between good writing and art; it is subtle, but savage. And after that, the whip came down!
(to be continued . . . )