So, I was recently listening to an interview with the celebrated writer, John Irving, author of The World According To Garp among many other great novels.
Near the end of the interview he said something that intrigued me greatly. He said that he has essentially led a boring life, one free of any serious traumatic events, and this has given him the freedom to imagine things much more horrific that have ever happened, or could ever happen, to him in real life.
Isn’t this an interesting concept? I’m sure we’ve all, at some point or another, been encouraged to work from our own experiences somehow, to “write what we know”. Irving seems to counter that idea, suggesting that, if “what you know” is too intense, you can become stuck in those moments and unable to venture outside of them. But if your reality is, well, dull and unremarkable then you have a blank slate and all possibilities are open to you. At least that’s how I’m interpreting his comments and I apologize to Mr. Irving if I am mistaken.
What do you think? Work from imagination or work from experience?
I think I get what he’s saying. If you have been through something worthy of building a piece of art around it (well, anything can really be seen in a creative light but we’re talking epic events here) I imagine it would be tempting to recreate everything as it happened from your recollection. And, coming from reality, the images would certainly be vivid. But the whole story might not make for the best piece of art in the long run. Maybe the essence of the event is fascinating but it would be even more so if x character were added or it took place in a different location or a different point in history.
It makes me think of The Silver Linings Playbook. I was absolutely mesmerized by the book – couldn’t put it down – but there were just enough details changed in the movie version to demote it from amazing to pretty good in my mind. It’s not the same thing but it is. Anyway, I get his point that, when you feel confined by reality, you might not be able to make the most compelling story possible.
What is your take on this theory? I’d love to hear your thoughts so put them in the comments section below!
Have a great day!