Friday, November 4, 2016

on limitations and creativity

Years ago, when I was beginning to understand creativity as something deeper and more resounding than a playful pastime, a wise person in my life told me that creativity was more about limitations than total freedom. I’d never thought about it that way before, but I realized he was right. I thought of the collages and cards I loved to make from magazine cut-outs throughout high school and saw this dynamic at play. Limited space, images that could only be chosen, and which could be altered only by choosing where to cut and how to place within the frame.

I see the power of the limitation dynamic in non-fiction writing, too. I’ve heard authors talk about what to do when memory fails, or when the details of family or community history that will add depth to your story aren’t available. Not knowing becomes the story, one writer suggests.

I’m thinking about this in part because of the post I wrote yesterday. It was about me, but it was also largely about other people who may or may not want details, identifying or otherwise, on my blog (small readership though I may have). I didn’t want to say too much about my coworker and her relationship. I didn’t want to mention much about my family history of disease. And I didn’t want to mention my visit with my aunt this summer, and how I saw remnants of disease and treatment in her body, and how she told me important information about my other aunt, who passed away years ago.

These details may have made my story more interesting, more compelling. But in writing non-fiction, I want to be mindful of how I give away my life (or rather, how I protect and preserve my life) in my writing. Another writer talks about aspects of this dilemma of disclosure in terms of voice and criticism, which are other issues to consider. In another way, choosing to withhold certain details can be seen as limitations that force more creativity. How can I say this in a different way? What other details or scenes can I share? What is enough but not too much?

No comments:

Post a Comment