Saturday, September 15, 2012

Creativity Quotes from "Imagine"

Don Lee on inventing the bacon-infused old-fashioned:
"Basically I experimented with fat-washing because I was bored and nobody told me not to," Don says.  "I'm sure most bartenders would have told me it was a terrible idea, that it would never sell, that I was wasting perfectly good bourbon.  But the laws of chemistry told me that it should work, so why not try it?  I guess my only secret was that I didn't know any better."
- from "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer, page 117

So it's not such a far-fetched thing to add ghee or extra virgin olive oil to hot tea, then, as I do!

The outsider problem affects everyone....

This is one of the central challenges of writing.  A writer has to read his sentences again and again. (Such are the inefficiencies of editing.)  The problem with this process is that he very quickly loses the ability to see his prose as a reader and not as the writer.  He knows exactly what he's trying to say, but that's because he's the one saying it.  In order to construct a clear sentence or a coherent narrative, he needs to edit as if he knows nothing, as if he's never seen these words before.

This is an outsider problem -- the writer must become an outsider to his own work.  When he escapes from the privileged position of the author, he can suddenly see all those imprecise clauses and unnecessary flourishes; he can feel the weak parts of the story and the slow spots in the prose.  That's why the novelist Zadie Smith, in an essay on the craft of writing, stresses the importance of putting aside one's prose and allowing the passage of time to work its amnesiac magic.
When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second -- put it in a drawer.  For as long as you can manage.  A year or more is ideal -- but even three months will do . . .  You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it's not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who's read it in twelve different versions.  It's the head of a smart stranger, who picks it off a bookshelf and begins to read.  ou need to get the head of that smart stranger somehow.  You need to forget you ever wrote that book.
- from "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer, page 132 - 133

I'd love to write fiction, but I can't tell if I would get my story across the way I play it out in my head.  I think this outsider problem is part of it.  But I think I also get too caught up in the detail of specific scenes and pay little attention to the overall flow, cadence, pace of the story.

No comments: