Of Literary Creativity and Restraint Pt.2

The topic of todays discussion is Literary Creativity.

I mentioned in the last post that the idea for this series came from a film adapted from Agatha Christie.

This is mostly true, as the film got me thinking about how one can be creative and restricted at the same time. As a writer, I would feel partial responsibility if my plot for a murder intended to be pure entertainment were the inspiration for a real murder. That’s why I have to guard what I write. To the same degree, but less drastic extremes, I also have to make sure that the characters who display evil traits don’t influence my readers toward evil. As a Christian, I have that responsibility.

How on earth does an artist create things when his or her creativity is in such chains?

Chained tree

So that’s a tree hugger?

The answer lies in two facts.

First, you’re already in chains, and second you’re already in chains.

Let’s take a look-see at the first one. You’re already inside the restrictions of your art. If you want your reader to see a scene, you can’t just show them a recording of the spot you’re thinking of (this is especially true of sci-fi) so you have to use words to convey a sense of the surroundings. If you have the talent to paint or draw a picture or record a movie of what you want your audience to see, that’s all well and good, but you are then working inside the restrictions of the arts you can perform.

Along the same lines, you’re imagination is limited to slight modifications of things you are already familiar with. And if it wasn’t, there would still be no good done in writing about it, because your readers are limited to slight modifications of what they already know. If you want to describe something to me that doesn’t exist right now or I’m not familiar with, you have to use terms I am familiar with to describe it to me. This is a tedious process that can be made enjoyable only though a lot of skill on the part of the writer.

In short, I’d say “Get used to it and write what you know, unless you don’t know anything, and then you should consider politics.”

And yes, you can quote me on that one.

Now that you’ve got that concept firmly in your memory buffer, lets move on to the part where you are already in chains.

I was reading the preface to Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and in it there was mentioned the plot to one of his plays. There was a man who realized that his life was being narrated and so he decided to go to the author to change the outcome of his life’s story. I didn’t make the connection until today, that this is essentially the same plot used in Stranger than fiction.

Stranger Than Fiction Movie

Now it’s possible that the author of this movie had never read this story…as a matter of fact, it’s more than likely that he reinvented the same wheel that worked so well a few hundred years ago.

Which brings me to a quote by Albert Einstein.  “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”
— Albert Einstein

So, from the available data, I would surmise that the secret to creative writing is two fold.

  1. Realize that you aren’t all that creative.
  2. Copy obscure material and modify it so that it is truely your own.

~Dan Delyon, Author in waiting.

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