My ops clerk has recently taken up the habit of creative writing during office hours. He uses a terminal quite far removed from everyone else, so when he has nothing to do, he writes. He wrote a play, and now he’s starting on a novel.
My desk is reasonably well visited so I don’t have that luxury, but all the same he got me rueing my writing drought. I used to write a lot. I started small, a parody of Harry Potter scribbled in a pile of those brown A5 exercise books. The names were lazily changed (I remember the protagonist went on to attend a Boarpimples Academy) but everyone was inordinately flatulent. Even back then I had a fascination with the scatological.
My little exercise books were a hit. They were passed around in class to offended giggles. I got called up once for a particularly racy take on A Wrinkle in Time when I was 11. Undaunted, I moved on to newsletters. Who could forget my irresistible Mamee Magazine in 2004, which came free with a purchase of 3 packets of Mamee? (I think the printing costs went some way towards eroding my 200% profit)
The irony is that the more Literature I did, the less I wrote. Having learned to critique the works of others I naturally critiqued myself the harshest. My parodies were uninventive, my prose was bland and the imagery commonplace, my poetry was melodramatic or way too obvious. I stopped writing novels because they required too much commitment; short stories were more economical. I stopped writing funny stuff because the best works inevitably invoked sorrow, regret or bitterness on some level. The best I did in secondary school was a few chapters about a band of people with supernatural powers and awkward personalities but Heroes came out shortly after and sort of quelled the excitement I had when I thought the idea belonged only to me. (okay, and Marvel, Capcom and a dozen other comic series. But mine was incredible.)
It’s reminiscent of Eden that the more we know, the less we create. Knowledge should lead to better creation but most of the time it paralyses. You feel the need to do so much, to express in one work the sum total of your experiences and wisdom that it either ends up trite, didactic or non-existent. I think we’re so crippled by expectation precisely because we see creativity as non-transferable. Either you have it or you don’t; no amount of practice is going to help. One mediocre piece is metonymic of the lot; if it doesn’t look promising it’s better off being an untitled Word document, shamefacedly deleted at the end of the session.
But creativity’s the best foil to the working world, where one is rewarded for assiduously stating things as they are. I’m constantly learning to truncate my sentences in staff writing. “There’s no need to rephrase one, just say it once, make it simpler to understand! Don’t need so cheem.” my boss keeps telling me. I’m learning well. My sentences are clipped and to the point, free of drama – what’s the use of engaging writing if you can’t even get your alignment, font sizes and numbering in order? It’s driving me crazy.
Which is why I’m going to have to write. Pages and pages of mediocre, run-of-the-mill bullshit, with characters unapologetically ripped off from popular fiction, excessive dialogue and scanty settings. Lots of throwaway flatulent and fat people. It’s the only way I know and there’s no better feeling than the satisfaction that worlds were created on your computer, that characters so demented and flawed found a place in your creation and did crazy awesome stuff.
Maybe not in my office though. Too many eyes.