Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Cormac McCarthy explains how a 9-5 job limits your artistic potential

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As Cormac McCarthy tells Oprah Winfrey in 2007 during his first television interview ever, he has made his creative work the central focus of his life to the exclusion of everything else. For example, he answers a question about why he turned down lucrative speaking engagements with, “I was busy. I had other things to do.”

It’s not that I don’t like things, I mean some things are very nice, but they certainly take a distant second place to being able to live your life and being able to do what you want to do. I always knew that I didn’t want to work.

How did he pull off not having a job? He says, “You have to be dedicated… I thought, ‘you’re just here once, life is brief and to have to spend every day of it doing what somebody else wants you to do is not the way to live it.’”

McCarthy endured “truly, truly bleak” poverty to focus on his art without distractions. McCarthy suggests that unless artists make their own creative work their first priority, and material comfort and economic security a “distant second,” they may never discover their true potential.

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.


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Cormac McCarthy has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres. McCarthy’s fifth novel, Blood Meridian (1985) has come to be regarded as one of the greatest novels in American literature. For All the Pretty Horses (1992), he won both the U.S. National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. His 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for The Road (2006). 

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