November 19, 2013

The truest sentence

Dear M,

Creativity has to come from within. You cannot force it into existence. When you say writing from the heart, that's what you mean. If you try to write something that isn't yours or that didn't originate in your heart or wasn't your own experience, in other words if it was planted there, the difference is out there for all to see, that the writer probably doesn't even believe in the theme.

I believe that's what Ernest Hemingway meant when he said Write the truest sentence that you know. If not, I haven't yet figured out what it means.

Many years ago (about three-four years ago, but feels like a couple of centuries!), I participated in a short story contest. There was a theme. And there was a deadline. So I cooked up a story, used my imagination to fit the characters and the plot into the theme, and wrote something that had a beginning, and an end, and a plot, and a flow, and everything. I thought it looked good, so I submitted it. Needless to say, it didn't come anywhere close to getting selected.

Today I know what the problem with the story was. It did not come to me from within. I tried to create something by force, twist it into a shape that the theme demanded, limit the creativity to a timeframe, and... to cut a long narration short, the whole driving force (and purpose) behind my short story writing was fake. It wasn't me, it didn't come from me. I wouldn't know the difference, but the reader would (and evidently did).

We could do the theme-based writing, as an exercise, to test ourselves, to see where we go, to know what we could come up with, to explore how far we can stretch ourselves, to get a feel of our limits and to experience how we can expand upon a thought. Or just for fun.

But as far as serious writing goes, it should emerge from us, if it is to be any good.


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