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The Necessity of Security for Invention

The story of Terry Pratchett's first book goes something like this:

He was working for a nuclear plant as some sort of copyeditor and he was inspired by the idea that would become 'The Color of Magic.' He wrote 400 words every night, presumably as his wife was tucking in his daughter, Rhiannon. And then it was completed and he went straight on to the next book.

And 'On the Road' details how Jack Kerouac was living with his aunt while he was working on his book, paying rent out of his VA benefits and going to college.

Anton Lavoisier, the discoverer of the mechanics of fire, was a tax farmer. This is a guy appointed by the king to collect taxes in his area and charge a bit on top to cover his personal expenses. He used some of those profits to disprove the phlogiston theory and detail the part oxygen plays in making things burn.

Joseph Priestly is an interesting case: he is famous for discovering oxygen. He made his living by preaching, lecturing, and tutoring, which gave him a lot of flexibility in his schedule and paid for plenty of glass jars. And it also shows he was from a relatively educated family, since no one hires a tutor or lecturer for their manual labor skills.


All of this makes me wonder if either books or discoveries would have happened if there were not a leisure class.

Well, not necessarily a leisure class. Just groups of people who have the right combination of time, education, and freedom from want.


Because the things all four have in common is that the clearly had decent educations and made enough from their jobs to not spend a lot of time fretting about their bills. Kerouac was not about to be kicked out by his aunt and could rely on his VA benefits. Lavoisier had enough income to spend on glassware, and he wouldn't be unable to pay his grocery bills if Phlogiston turned out to be a thing. There are many people alive today because someone with a bookish education and a flexible work schedule spent his spare money and time on Bunsen burners.


The level of education doesn't have to be stellar, nor does the income have to be a lot, but there has to be some security and time.


Otherwise, a person is forced to produce whatever will sell right away, and that is antithetical to basic research and creativity. Either that or they come home exhausted and have no time to do the exploring necessary to produce something great.


My point is that I don't begrudge people idle time and a couple advantages. That is the only way new things get created.


Anyway, I am now on Medium.com under my own name, and I have a half-off sale on my book, 'The First Charge.' That's right: I had the security and time to write a book about four intrepid souls being in mortal danger and very short of funds. If anyone wants to read a Medieval spy adventure, check it out.



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