by Jessica Harrington
Last night I went to the nearest Redbox to rent a film to help further my procrastination of writing a few pieces for the Haberdasher, a task I have been avoiding as if it were the bubonic plague simply because I have had a lapse in both inspiration and will. With no intention of getting any work done, I rented A Midnight in Paris, a highly entertaining, satirical, romantic-comedy written and directed by Woody Allan. This is not a film review so I will briefly summarize the main plot points. The main character Gil is a screenwriter, or as he proclaims a “Hollywood hack”, who is taking a stab at “real literature” by writing a novel. The film takes place present day in Paris and while there, Gil ends up back in the 1920’s, a time in Paris that he considers the Golden Age, the era he wishes he could have lived. During his travels, he becomes friends with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Gertrude Stein, among others. Sitting in a café, Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald get into a disagreement about Scott’s involvement with Zelda, a relationship Hemingway does not agree with. Upon making his case, Hemingway turns to Gil and asks his opinion. When Gil shies’ away from answering, Hemingway’s character asks, “Come on Gil, you’re a writer, you must observe things- you were with them all night, what is your opinion?”
This line got me thinking about my own traits that I feel are essential to my writing process and brings me to the topic at hand; observation- is it essential to the creative process? Is it a trait that writers possess? When we as writers observe internal emotions and workings, interaction between strangers, the reactions and emotions different occurrences cause in people, the natural world, does it not, in some way inspire us to turn that instance into a poem, a character, a painting? Even things we experience, we observe the makings of the event, recalling a story we read, a word of advice from someone, a conversation you have eaves dropped on.
I know that my best ideas stem from real life, even if it is a very abstract manifestation of my perceived reality. I am a habitual eavesdropper and people watcher. I create fictional characters from people I observe, story lines from conversations I over hear, and reference emotions from first and second hand experience to ensure my characters are relatable, that they become a reality in their fictional world. This trait, or habit, is essential whether it is realized or not. You cannot be creative if you have nothing to draw from. To discover something to draw from one must observe the world around them and the world that exists within them. The most bizarre fairly-tales and stories of mythical creatures and places, paintings and sculptures produced by non-representational or completely abstract artists, have all stemmed from some observation of that persons world. I have yet to meet someone who creates that does not also observe as well, the two are synonymous; to have one is to possess the other. Observation is the seed that manifests into the creation, the later needing the first to grow
I agree that the two are synonymous. Dove tailing on your thoughts regarding the relationship between observation and creativity, this is why I believe that exposure to many different types of books, people, experiences, and landscapes is helpful to writers. Because writing for an audience of real people demands honest representation of given subject matter (even when writing fictional stories), writers must know what it is to actually feel something and be able to communicate in such a way that a reader sees what the writer sees. My favorite writers are not afraid to visit territories foreign to their understanding. They bravely step outside of their comfort zone so that I can know what it might be like if _______. I often remind myself to embrace life, as it is, with pure joy. I believe that this should be the desire of every writer–to embrace life. Writers should be grateful for even the unpleasant people, places, and events in their lives.