From Something, To Something

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-08-08 21:00:00 No comments

Sorry, busy week, hence the silence. In re a discussion of Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation:

Setting Expectations :: Matthew Buscemi

... the film’s ending isn’t so much a mockery of subservience to an audience’s expectations, but rather a depiction of how a skilled writer can construct meaningful purpose from even the most banal expectations and formulae.

It ain't where you start, it's where you end up, and how you get there. I had the lowest possible expectations for the likes of John Wick, and not only did I get rocked back on my psychic heels three times in a row (and soon it'll be #4 and #5), but I ended up taking inspiration from it for at least one, possibly two, other works. But I suspect people would struggle to connect the finished work with the inspiration, and that's fine -- that's the sign the inspiration is working as fuel and not as a template.

There's a couple of different feelings I get off people I talk to when I mention this sort of thing. Feeling 1 is that since inspiration can come from anywhere, it doesn't really matter what it is. It's OK if the end results is derivative, because many folks don't really think they're being derivative as long as they are spirited enough in the execution. I half-agree; I think something can be redeemed by the spirit of its execution, but that doesn't guarantee that it will. Sometimes all you end up with is an ably-executed cliché.

Feeling 2, the more complex feeling, is that since inspiration can come from anywhere, it should come from the best places, the things that are likely to yield the most fruitful results. Well, that all depends on what we call a "result", and what we call "fruitful", and ... you get the idea. "Best" is something of a trap, in the same way that John Cage was skeptical of First, Second, No Good. Not to say that quality doesn't exist, but that it is still a label we apply, and we need to not let the labels stand in the way of the things in themselves. Things should be discarded, but not ignored. A negative inspiration is as important as a positive one, as I found with Justice League and my most recent book.

Making use of Things From Anywhere takes multitudes of forms. My friend Steven Savage is sometimes fond of weird, schlocky stuff that at the same time has some spark of curiosity or wildness in it; as in, it's the spark that draws him in, not the schlock. If I read a lot of thriller/noir stuff, it's not strictly because I want to write like that, but because there's a worldview inherent to the material I want to get to know, something that comes through as a composite of many works by many authors and not just one thing from one place. It's about fuel, not templates.

Tags: creativity inspiration