The Disinhibition Prescription

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-12-04 12:00:00 No comments

My friend 'n colleague Matt Buscemi, on giving writerly advice to someone stuck for somewhere, anywhere to start:

The Creation Cycle :: Matthew Buscemi

I advised my friend to start writing using simple prompts, or to develop detailed character outlines and use them as the setting for a scene involving that character with no plot at all. The goal was to reduce the perceived difficulty of the task down to the level where he could simply start writing.

What I realized, after giving this advice, is the dark path it could lead down if taken to the opposite extreme. It is one thing to abandon inhibition when feeling particularly inhibited. It is another to abandon it when faced with stark feedback that passes of tests of logical coherence and empathy on the part of the giver. It is all too easy to meander from, “I am going to set my worry aside and just write whatever comes to mind for a while and see what that teaches me,” to, “Whatever words I slop out onto the page are wonderful and amazing, and I’m not beholden to anyone else’s sensibilities of plot, character believability, idea, theme, or narrative structure.” The former is a writer overcoming an inhibition. The latter is writer who should perhaps be a bit more inhibited.

My comment was: "The opposite of inhibition is disinhibition, not uninhibition; an act, rather than a state." One always wants to look at an inhibition and interrogate it. Sometimes what's holding you back is a guardrail to keep you from going over the edge; sometimes it's a straitjacket. There's no way to know unless you take a close look, not just once but again and again.

I'm all in favor of writers who want to Break Rules, because that can be fun and it can also lead to truly new kinds of work. I'm not in favor of using rule-breaking work as a teaching guide, though. Singular works are hard to learn the right lessons from, because the lesson too often gets interpreted as uninhibition rather than disinhibition. Not all of what is most precious and powerful is that way because it is disinhibited. Disinhibition gives you certain kinds of powers, but at the expense of others. 

Most of My Favorite Things are disinhibited in some way, but not all of them. I cherish the filmmaking of Stan Brakhage, painting straight on the cels and showing us only the things he could show us. But I also cherish François Truffaut, whose visual language was almost never extraordinary, just used with empathy and wit. Those things by themselves are hard enough to realize.

Tags: creativity