Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Burden of Creativity


I read an articlein the newspaper where writer Talya Meyers complained about, of all things, Pottermore. She seems to think JK Rowling is an imagination thief. The reason? Rowling likes to share backstories, histories and mythologies for her world and the writer felt that this was taking away from her own ability to imagine what happened. She brought up the ghost in Hamlet, saying that part of the “fun” is not knowing if it’s a specter, part of Hamlet’s imagination or even if it’s telling the truth.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the article writer is an English grad student. Meyers even admits she’s on the side of Death of the Author (in the article called intentional fallacy), the trope that says that the author’s word isn’t important, only the interpretation. As a story goes, Isaac Asimov went into a class discussing his own works, which I’m guessing he was an expert on. After class, he spoke to the lecturer to say that while he found the interpretation interesting, it wasn’t what he meant. As legend has it, the teacher’s response was “Just because you wrote it, what makes you think you have the slightest idea what it’s about?”

I think blood is spurting out my ears.

As a novel writer, this whole business irks me. I know so many details of the world I create, most of which will never end up in the finished product(s). Sharing all the stuff for my world is fun. Not that I don’t want people to interpret my work, talk about what it means to them, even come up with ideas based on it, but come on. I think I’m qualified to interpret my own work, English degree or no.

Honestly, the article seemed petulant, like JK Rowling was making her work tougher because it limited her interpretations. Come on. Books are windows into the imaginations of others. You can't expect it to be the same as yours. And complaining about being limited? Bah! You’re only as limited as your mind can imagine. 

The point of sharing stories with others is not to simply give them something to write about. It’s to give them a place to start their own journey. If you run into a wall, you don’t try to bust through it, nor do you blame the author for putting it there. You go around it. With the new path comes new ideas. Reader, writer, or interpreter, true creativity is hard work.



  1. 1. I think interpretation is up to the author. That is, if the author wants things to be left up to reader interpretation, they can do that, and, if they don't want they reader to interpret, they can do that. The reader doesn't get the option of complaining.

    2. Needing the author to leave things to my interpretation (leaving me room to "play" in the author's world) is a co-op. Enjoy the world the author has provided, but, if you want to play in one, go create your own and don't complain that the author is stealing your room to interpret.

  2. I'm laughing that she says Pottermore is "chilling". Really? Overreact much?

  3. I agree that every reader can have their own interpretation and they may vary...but I think that Death of the Author thing is just ridiculous!

  4. Blood spurting out of our ears says it just right!

  5. An interesting post. It's silly for someone to complain that an author creating ancillary works somehow limits the reader's ability to come to their own conclusions about things. If a given reader is so concerned about this, they can just avoid the ancillary works, no?

    There are interesting dynamics here. What the author meant is what the author meant, even if someone interprets it differently. At the same time, there are often times when different readers can have different reactions to a piece of fiction and there wouldn't be an objectively "wrong" answer -- maybe not even in the writer's own mind...

    Cool stuff to think about.

    On a totally different note... I've passed along the Versatile Blogger award to you. If you're interested in passing it along to others, you can see all the details at my blog: http://michael-haynes.blogspot.com/2011/12/blog-miscellany-contest-award-more.html

    Even if you're not interested in passing it along, I hope that a few people will stop by your blog from my blog and check out your posts.

  6. The silly things people can get all worked up about...

    This reminds me of a couple things. First, Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield. He goes to college to finally get his degree, but he's a rich guy, so he gets others to do his homework for him. Like getting Kurt Vonnegut to do a paper on one of Vonnegut's books.

    The teacher didn't agree with Kurt Vonnegut's interpretation of his own work.

    Second, this cartoon: http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/2130786/the+curtains+were+fucking+blue/

    Sure, it's cool to come up with your own interpretation. But then again, it's also cool to find out what the author really meant.

  7. It seems to me that this person should just avoid the website then. It's sort of like the trivia behind a movie, the director's commentary. You can choose to listen what they intended a scene meant, or you can choose to ignore it and draw your own conclusions.


  8. My way of thinking is that the complainers, in cases like these, need a good smack upside the head for sheer idiocy.


Please validate me.