Thursday, July 10, 2008

Creativity stifled: The Price of fast life

You might find this an irrational thought, but actually, to me at least, it makes a lot of sense: as one progresses through life, the second decade is spent in education (and for me, almost seven years of the third decade as well), the third in getting a foothold in life through the novel experiences of marriage, starting a family, beginning a new business or profession, and travelling to new places in a process of discovery (and also a bit of escapism), the fourth in stabilising one's life and almost half of the fifth in completing the remaining obligations of life such as pending loans, etc. Now, during these nearly 35-40 years, one's creative streak, call it a hobby, call it a pastime, or what have you, takes a back seat.

I recall my childhood and adolescence as if they were yesterday. Although not a gifted child, I was certainly above the average when it came to both, academics and creativity. Perhaps you could call me an under-achiever in sporting activities, but circumstances and the kind of upbringing I received deprived me of opportunities to discover if I had any sporting talent and to hone my skills in that direction.

The result was that I was considered a book-worm by my more adventurous peers; however, being left alone has its advantages too; I took to reading books (not just from my curriculum, but outside it too), drawing, sketching, colouring, making craft items and so on. Another, major hobby that I started cultivating right from childhood was writing. Enid Blyton was one of my major idols, and my first books were an imitation of her style of writing without her finesse or skill. I also wrote essays, poems, a novella, and I experimented even with writing a short novel in Hindi!

During my college years, these activities allowed me to explore English without any hesitation; I took part in handwriting competitions in school, in elocution and drama in school, in debating and elocution in the medical college, and finally, I took to writing as a favourite pastime hobby sometime around the age of 40+.

The revival of creativity has done wonders to me, my aging, my personality, my leadership qualities and capacities and many more things besides. And therein lies the blessings of Allah.


vin said...

Enid Blyton was also my favorite at that time. She still beats Harry Potter hands down. In time I came to recognize her formula of a team of children on holiday. But the characters and he story varied with each adventure and one never got tired of them.

Alistair Maclean and James Hadley Chase came next to spice up my life with thrills and spills.

As one continued to read (and I had to read all the other books by an author once I liked one book) one realized that there was a framework on which the drapings varied. Soon you realized that with his first book the author had said pretty much all that he wanted and then repeated the same in all subsequent novels. Like Robin Cook following the female heroine-medical villain theme in all books after Coma.

Arthur Hailey varied it by changing the stage from Hotel to Airport to politics (In High Places) to cars (Wheels) and finance (Moneychangers). The characters remained the same while you were introduced to a new world.

I was a fan (Andromeda Strain) of Michael Crichton long before Jurassic Park. He never appears to stale as he introduces the latest advances in simple language.

How to be creative while writing about real life was taught by Gerald Durell as he recounted his experiences with animals in superb language ('My Family and Other Animals' can be read again and again without getting tired).

Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming and Perry Mason also had a formula and churned out thrillers faster than you could shoot but never ceased to thrill. I doubt the latest James Bond novel (penned by someone else) will attract so many.

Harold Robbins (Carpetbaggers, A Stone for Danny Fisher) and Sidney Sheldon were very good initially with their first work but in their last books you could see them genuflecting before the mammon of the market with too much sex and little story. Mario Puzo also succumbed to a lesser extent.

The theme of a continuous story about a family was introduced to me first in 'God is an Englishman' and today's TV serials are but a continuation of that.

In summary I think if you have a formula it becomes easier to churn them out but to keep the readers interested you have to vary the drapings.

How much of real (personal) life experience is included in your works and if you spend more time gathering it then do you have less time for the keyboard?

For example being a doctor with writing and creative aspirations could you do what James Heriott did?

drtaher said...

Dear Vin,

Thank you for an excellent feedback. My eyes became misty as I recalled my own reading of all the greats that you mentioned. I agree that today, with the world being much faster than before, I cannot be as prolific a writer if I have to practice medicine or vice versa. I
Even if I did write for a living, I doubt I would earn that much ... because, frankly, I don't think I am such a good writer as one presupposes me to be.

Have you checked out my writing on www.drtaher.writing.com?

In particular, go through the folder called "Awarded Items" and read a few of the stories there. Tell me what you think.