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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 86:


The reader may well wonder in what my so-called insanity at this time consisted. Had I any of those impracticable delusions which had characterized my former period of elation? No, not one -- unless an unreasonable haste to achieve my ambitions may be counted a delusion. My attention simply focused itself on my project. All other considerations seemed of little moment. My interest in business waned to the vanishing point. Yet, one thing should be noted: I did deliberately devote many hours to the consideration of business affairs. Realizing that one way to overcome an absorbing impulse is to divide the attention, I wrote a brief of the arguments I had so often presented to bankers. In this way I was able to convince the doctors that my intense interest in literature and reform would soon spend itself.


A consuming desire to effect reforms had been the determining factor when I calmly weighed the situation with a view to making the best possible use of my impulse to write. The events of the immediate past had convinced me that I could not hope to interest men of wealth and influence in my humanitarian project until I had some definite plan to submit for their leisurely consideration. Further, I had discovered that an attempt to approach these men directly disturbed my relatives and friends who had not yet learned to dissociate present intentions from past performances. I had, therefore, determined to drill myself in the art of composition to the end that I might write a story of my life which would merit publication. I felt that such a book, once written, would do its own work, regardless of my subsequent fortunes. Other books had spoken even from the grave; why should not my book so speak -- if necessary?


With this thought in mind I began not only to read and write, but to test my impulse in order that I might discover if it were a genuine part of my being, an abnormal impulse, or a mere whim. I reasoned that to compare my own feelings toward and for literature, and my emotions experienced in the heat of composition, with the recorded feelings of successful men of letters, would give me a clue to the truth on this question. At this time I read several books of a nature that would have served as a basis for my deductions, but only one of them did I have time to analyze and note in my diary. That one was "Wit and Wisdom of the Earl of Beaconsfield." The following passages from the pen of Disraeli I transcribed in my diary with occasional comments.


"Remember who you are, and also that it is your duty to excel. Providence has given you a great lot. Think ever that you are born to perform great duties." This I interpreted in much the same spirit that I had interpreted the forty-fifth Psalm on a prior occasion.


"It was that noble ambition, the highest and best, that must be born in the heart, and organized in the brain, which will not let a man be content unless his intellectual power is recognized by his race, and desires that it should contribute to their welfare."


"Authors -- the creators of opinion."


"What appear to be calamities are often the sources of fortune."


"Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant." ("Then why," was my recorded comment, "cannot the changes I propose to bring about, be brought about?")


"The author is, as we must ever remember, of peculiar organization. He is a being born with a predisposition which with him is irresistible, the bent of which he cannot in any way avoid, whether it directs him to the abstruse researches of erudition or induces him to mount into the fervid and turbulent atmosphere of imagination." "This," I wrote (and I wrote it the day after arriving at the hospital) "is a fair diagnosis of my case as it stands to-day, assuming, of course, that an author is one who loves to write, and can write with ease, even though what he says may have no literary value. My past proves that my organization is a peculiar one. I have for years (two and a half) had a desire to achieve success along literary lines. I believe that, feeling as I do to-day, nothing can prevent my writing. If I had to make a choice at once between a sure success in the business career ahead of me, and doubtful success in the field of literature I would willingly, yes confidently, choose the latter. I have read many a time about successful writers who learned how to write, and by dint of hard work ground out their ideas. If these men could succeed, why should not a man who is in danger of being ground up by an excess of ideas and imagination succeed, when he seems able to put those ideas into fairly intelligible English? He should and will succeed."


Therefore, without delay, I began the course of experiment and practice which culminated within a few months in the first draft of my story. Wise enough to realize the advantages of a situation free from the annoying interruptions of the work-a-day world, I enjoyed a degree of liberty seldom enjoyed by those in possession of complete legal liberty and its attendant obligations. When I wished to read, write, talk, walk, sleep, or eat, I did the thing I wished. I went to the theater when the spirit moved me to do so, accompanied, of course, by an attendant, who, on such occasions, played the role of chum.

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