Revisions are grinding me into the floor (and are due Friday, listen for that gunshot) so today I offer another guest post–this time from the multi-talented Ryan Bond. He plays video games, writes short stories, and is generally an all-around cool guy. Also, I love this philosophical discussion about the creative process. Not enough philosophy in my life without Professor Holzwarth forcing me to read it.
Before we get started, two links for you:
- If you’re a YA or NA author, or a voracious reader of the same ilk, check out Allie B’s FIRST KISS CONTEST.
- Colleen Clayton has a book called What Happens Next coming out in the next couple of days (Oct. 9, to be exact) and the first three chapters rock. I mean, wow, this is how you write a first ten pages. Dang. Be sure to check it out.
Stage Manager of the Mind
Human thought meanders and rages as a maelstrom of amorphous, abstract and absolute concepts – oftentimes between heartbeats.
The ability to capture those concepts and lend them voice through a myriad of forms has become one of our defining human characteristics. Whether expressed through song, dance, architecture, spoken or written word, the journey that concepts take from consciousness to concrete existence is profound.
How do we as creators fit into this and what is our responsibility within our creations?
Over 17,000 years ago in the Lascaux cave complex in southwest France some of the oldest Paleolithic cave paintings exist. The images include animals (horses, stags, cattle), humans, and abstract signs.
The animals selected and depicted were all chosen by people. Those people prioritized what was important to them as they communicated via the cave paintings. Even within the depictions of each animal there is something being said.
Plato discussed in Sophist that there are two types of creations: faithful reproductions or distorted copies meant to appear correct to viewers. The animal paintings are clearly not meant to be exact copies but abstract representations of real life animals. This is demonstrated by the varied executions through which the animals are depicted.
What these paintings demonstrate is the ability to take a thought, execute it in some representative form, and share that creation with others. This ancient act of creation is the same act that the imaginers of today use when executing their craft; translating thought into form.
The act of choosing what to show or hide your audience shapes and defines the creation. The words that are selected, the images that are given focus, and the descriptions that are provided give concrete form to abstract thoughts. All the elements left on the cutting room floor or remain trapped in thought – unable to be effectively translated – equally define the work. The process is as much about what is shown as what is hidden.
Plato also wrote the Allegory of the Cave which shares some principles with the act of creation. In his example, a group of prisoners are shackled to their chairs in a cave and forced to look in only one direction. Behind them is a raging fire which casts shadows onto the only wall that they can see. Between the prisoners and the fire are puppeteers that put on a show for the prisoners. The prisoners can only see the shadows of these actual objects but come to believe those shadows are the actual objects.
Without going too deep into the concept, Plato argues that this is how humans experience the world; as mere shadows of actual objects. Within our own creations, how true to our thoughts are the shadows that we cast for our audience? How much room do we allow them to see, interpret, and expand upon what we have provided? Do they see enough? Do they see too little? Are we making one shadow too big or another too small? We are the ones creating the show for our audience.
It is in the space between the seen and unseen that the audience is invited to participate in our creations through their imaginations. The creator gives voice to their thoughts which translates to the audience’s experience.
Our charge is to learn how to be a better stage manager for the theater of our minds – pulling and pushing the creation levers as necessary to conjure up our own unique magic for our audience.