Creative Work and Coercions of Circumstances

It was only with the success of shows like The Sopranos and The Wire that the reverence accorded directors in cinema  began to be extended to creators of television. David Milch was the show runner for NYPD Blue and Deadwood. He also seems to have been a remarkably unusual creative, with the extremity of his behaviour perhaps illuminating a dimension of the creative process which too frequently passes unnoticed:

He also developed several obsessive-compulsive conditions. These included addictions to alcohol and heroin, though they were not as immediately crippling to his ambitions to become a novelist as were such habits as rewriting the same thirteen pages of prose over and over again, word for word, in longhand, for a year. Television proved a salvation […] TV’s “coercions of circumstances,” as Milch called them – speed, deadlines, the constraints of genre, the necessity of collaboration – would prove to be precisely what he needed to emulate his mentor and become an author.

Brett Martin, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution, pg 172

For those who aren’t working with multiple addictions and suffering under the weight of debilitating obsessive compulsive symptoms, it’s easier to lose sight of the ‘coercions of circumstance’ under which we work. We could argue that these are anyway more extreme when it comes to television. But creative work always takes place within a context and I like this notion of ‘coercions of circumstances’ as a way of making sense of how these contextual factors impinge upon the rhythms and meanings of creative work. Part of the motivation for the Accelerated Academy project is a desire to understand how coercions of circumstances are being transformed in the contemporary academy in a way that leaves them inimical to scholarship.


Categories: Accelerated Academy, Sociological Craft

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