KingMidget's Ramblings

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I Think I’ve Written This Before


 

A new co-worker found out that I am a writer in my spare time.  We had a discussion about my writing and at one point she asked me who some of my favorite authors were.  And I was flummoxed by the question because the reality is that I don’t have any favorite authors anymore.  I only have favorite books.

Over the years, I have become convinced that the vast majority of artistic, creative people only have so much artistry and creativity within them.  I’ll provide you with two examples of this.  Regular readers of my blog can probably guess which writer I’ll now discuss.  Go ahead.  Say it with me.  Stephen King.

For a period of time, he wrote masterful and unique stories.  There is no doubt that he had a talent for gripping story telling.  The ShiningPet SemataryThe Stand.  And a few other novels back then. Some incredible short stories.  But at some point, he lost that talent.  For far too long, he has been writing the same story over and over and over again.  It’s a shame.  Seriously, how many more stories can he write in which the cast of characters is essentially the same and the whole point is a battle of innocent good versus some type of supernatural, unexplainable evil?

On the musical end for me it is the rock group Rush.  In high school and college, Rush was my favorite group.  It helped that it was that period of time when they were at the top of their game.  (So, yes, a side bar here is necessary.  I understand that there are many people reading this who don’t even know who Rush is and many of those who do are laughing their heads off at the idea that Rush were ever at the top of any game.  But I can’t help you if you’re in that camp.  I simply cannot.  All I know is that this was the closest thing to musical perfection to me back then.

I challenge you to listen to that song the right way — in your car with the volume fully cranked — and not understand this.  Okay, end of side bar.)

Back then, Rush released a handful of albums — 2112, A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Moving Pictures, and one or two others — that were just soooooooooo incredible.  More than 30 years later, I can still listen to those albums and be mesmerized by their sound.  And then, they became the Stephen King of the music industry.  Album after album for more than 20 years has sounded pretty much like the last album.

Stephen King and Rush are the best examples of this end of creativity conundrum, primarily because they both have such a large catalog of work that shows the effect.  But, there are plenty of others. You could probably name a few yourself.

Khaled Hosseini, who wrote The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed. The Kite Runner knocked my socks off and I begged for more.  A Thousand Splendid Suns came out a few years later and it satisfied my craving.  And a few years later, And the Mountains Echoed appeared on bookshelves.  Here’s what I can tell you.  Big picture — The Kite Runner is lifetime spanning epic about a child growing up in pre-war Afghanistan who leaves because of the wars and years later returns to confront a tragedy of his own making that occurred while he was a child.  It is a brutal and horrible story and it is absolutely riveting.  A Thousand Splendid Suns is about a woman and her marriage and is equally brutal and horrible and riveting.  And I couldn’t tell you think about what And the Mountains Echoed was about because when I was done reading it I was so disappointed at the parallels between it and The Kite Runner.  I felt like Hosseini had lost his spark with the third book.  I don’t know if I’ll read a fourth book, should one be forthcoming.

Today, I’ll add Wally Lamb to the list.  His second book,  I Know This Much is True, was the first Lamb book I read.  Again … socks absolutely knocked off.  I craved more.  Eventually, I went back to his first novel, She’s Come Undone, and thought it was OK.  Then his third novel was published.  The Hour I First Believed.  What an incredible title.  And that’s one thing Lamb has absolutely perfected.  Titles that call to me.  But, when I was done reading it … eh, not so much.  So, fast forward a few more years.

In 2013, Lamb published We Are Water.  Whenever I would go to Amazon and peruse for a book to read, I’d see the book and consider it and then decline to make the purchase.  But somewhere in the recent past, I did buy the book for my Kindle.  I started reading it only to get a few pages into it before I was distracted by something else to read.

This week, I’ve returned to it.  I started from the beginning and after reading for a couple of days, it is so monumentally blah, it’s ridiculous.  So ponderous, so wrapped up in the internal thoughts of un-engaging characters, just so … so … well, I think I’m done with it.

I wonder about this though.  Is there a limit to our individual creativity?  Is there only so much imagination we have?  Only so much art we can produce?  What do you think?

 

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30 responses to “I Think I’ve Written This Before

  1. Carrie Rubin April 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I agree this happens to some artists. Others, though they’re in the minority, seem to continue to evolve or improve. I wonder how much of it is due to a loss in creativity vs. a pressure to produce. Perhaps once an author takes off, so much is expected of him or her that it’s difficult to deliver. Meanwhile, those who sit quietly but productively in the background are left free to let their creativity fly. Or maybe it’s us as readers who get used to their work, and so what was once original grows a bit tired. Great topic.

    • kingmidget April 14, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      The interesting thing about both Lamb and Hosseini is that they are not part of the “must publish at least once a year” crowd. They both go several years between books.

      • Carrie Rubin April 14, 2016 at 5:50 pm

        That’s a good point. I actually liked Hosseini’s second book better, and I liked She’s Come Undone better than I Know this Much Is True. Female protagonists drew me in, maybe? But I agree, Hosseini’s third was not of the same caliber. Was almost more a string of vignettes that clumsily linked together in the end.

      • kingmidget April 14, 2016 at 5:53 pm

        I just hope my imagination doesn’t run dry before I write my best seller. 😉

      • kingmidget April 14, 2016 at 5:56 pm

        The thing about taking years between books … I have a tremendous respect for the writers who do that. But then my expectations are higher for those authors. In Lamb’s case, I wonder if it does him more harm than good. If he had to write a book in nine months maybe it wouldn’t be so monumentally ponderous.

      • Carrie Rubin April 14, 2016 at 6:05 pm

        That’s a good point, too. Okay, now I’m all over the place. I really like Sue Grafton’s A to Z mystery series (and kudos to her for a great idea–26 books guaranteed). She told her publisher she could no longer write a book a year. Now she takes two years in between. I think she’s gotten stronger as she’s gone on, tough to do when you’re up to letter X.

  2. cinthiaritchie April 14, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I LOVE King’s earlier works, and you forgot to mention “Salem’s Lot,” which is probably the scariest of any of them. His newer stuff does nothing for me. The same with Lamb, though I must say that I love “She’s Come Undone.”

    I think we all basically write the same stories over and over because we’e trying to rework old conflicts, outcomes, dreams, desires, etc., but a good author, or perhaps a great author, figures out ways in which to do so without sounding repetitious. I think great authors find new discoveries within each writing/book so that, in effect, it offers something new to the reader.

    P.S. And some writers have just one book that sings for me, such as Susan Cheever’s “Looking for Work.” Has anyone read that? Wow, it reads so smoothly, there’s not one extra word, and it’s funny and true and sad and honest all at once. Her other books, well, just can’t love them as much.

    • kingmidget April 14, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      You know, it’s interesting. Some good friends of mine both complain and make fun of the fact that almost all of my stories deal with death. Which is something I just have not had that much of in my life. My parents still alive. All my siblings. Other than a close friend who died at the age of 30 and a co-worker who did so in her early 40s. But, somehow, somebody always has to die in my stories. So, I don’t know what the inner conflict is that I’m dealing with. 😉

      But I agree that great authors figure out a way to keep telling new stories that are fresh, that don’t feel like the last story they wrote.

      And your point about Susan Cheever is, I think, exactly what I’m getting at. There is an “it” that creative people have. They may bottle it for one book or one song or one painting, or maybe for a few of each, but it is virtually impossible to capture it across one’s entire life and entire effort.

      And that’s why I have favorite books and not favorite authors.

  3. A Passionate Dreamer April 14, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    I don’t know how you could start a book and not finish it. I, no matter how much a book bores me, must finish it.

    • kingmidget April 14, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      I’m torn on this Lamb book. I feel like there may be a payoff but it is just sooooo bad right now. And it is a big book. I worry that it will be a monumental waste of time.

      • A Passionate Dreamer April 14, 2016 at 7:46 pm

        It could be. How will you know unless you finish it?

      • kingmidget April 14, 2016 at 8:08 pm

        On the Kindle, books aren’t measured in pages. They’re measured in some other way. Some thing that is measured in the thousands. Most novels seem to be in the 4,000 – 6,500 range. This Lamb novel reaches almost 10,000 of whatever it is. I just don’t know if I can read a novel that is twice as long as most with the feeling I have about it right now.

      • TamrahJo April 14, 2016 at 11:03 pm

        It’s saved and available! Save it if you can’t wade through!!! LOL – There are always new things to read, and seriously – if you aren’t hooked, there’s a reason – which may/may not ever be clear to you – LOL

      • cinthiaritchie April 14, 2016 at 7:47 pm

        Don’t finish, that’s my advice. There are so many other books out there that you will love, why waste time on one you dislike?

  4. igjchoir April 14, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Brilliant Controversy!

  5. TamrahJo April 14, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    There is ‘Art’ per se – (yes, I have my own prejudices regarding, even the wording of such things…LOL – wouldn’t have been a problem, but I chose to head bang myself around while listening to your Rush music post – just to give it a fair chance – tried to rock – knocked myself out, instead – – can we just have Dire Straits, Walk of Life, be our mutually agreed upon, dance around the living room or jam in the car song? LOL – I can live with it, if you can – – ”

    As for Stephen King – my faves are Insomnia, Rose Madder & 11/22/63 – I started the Dark Tower Series, but seriously, lost the ‘oomph’ to be die hard fan when I was left hanging for YEARS (yes, part of that was my fault.. but still! YEARS before getting to read what the hell happened and by time I was informed (post stroke) the next book had been written – well I was in “I’m off to other pastures…just now…. but good for you! You actually FINISHED! (wait – did you really? Finish? Would I have read the inter-library loan only to find out you’ll keeping me waiting fro another 15 years? I purchased Tower 1, 2 3 for gift set for Hubby in 1999 – read and was intrigued – stayed up late and went sleep deprived to plow on – and then, waited…..

    And waited…..

    I see some of my other “new to me/expanding my horizons authors doing –

    None of my faves made it on your list – I did like The Stand – and yet – it’s not one of my faves – simply cuz, I don’t like thinking about how ugly reality/humans can be 🙂 BUT, honestly, here’s the ‘list of reasons…”

    Insominia – The one new soon to be hubby (Stephen King fan, with collection of first edition hard backs gifted) picked out to introduce me to King – cuz I thought the 1970s (80s?) TV movie Carrie was all he had done – not my cup o’tea and new-to-be-hubby really wanted me to LIKE King – it seemed – and thought it would be a gentler introduction – I think –

    Rose Madder – Me own stuff – but, worked for me – – to understand/relate and also say, “well, okay then – here’s the end points of how far things can go – –

    11/22/63 – Seriously? Just loved the whole never-ending attempt to change history – even while crappola flies in to say, “Give it up – you ain’t gonna ever succeed” – cuz I’m a fan of exploring, What COULD be Possible, if Time/Space were seen as I see it? LOL – again, me own lil take on things – –

    As for Rush – yup – Do believe the (ex) hubby had quite a bit of that music laying around – They certainly have a very distinctive style, given the clip you shared – I refer back to one thing, i think we agree on -re: cool music that has meaning for you –

    And now, that I blogged in your comments space – (you know me, I’m going to assume I’m forgiven – – 🙂

    I shall close –

    We ARE never at the END of our CREATIVITY – Not those others – NOT YOU – But we sometimes get tired and settle – and sometimes, we get stuck and think we need to keep talking about stuff we need to move past – I DO this so very often – and, in my arrogance, figure If I’m doing it – at least 4.5% of the world’s population – does it too – – LOL

    Rest Easy – Sometimes, there is still something to ‘say’ and there are those who may still need to ‘hear’ – –

    Sometimes – You’ve said your spiel and now just have to wait for awhile to see how it all turns out – –

    But I still cherish my copy of Weed Therapy – do I think it your greatest work? Hell No! Cuz You Are Movin’ Forward – BUT! Unless you regurgitate to sell more copies – without changing anything, really – it is still a favored item on my book shelf – and one I recommend to others –

    And to me, that’s all that matters, in the end – – are you growing, as the years go buy?

    Or will you seduce me into buying more of the same-ole, same ole, once again – 10 years later – – LOL

    • kingmidget April 15, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Yes, I read the Dark Tower Series. All of it. I, too, was annoyed at the years of waiting between the first few books in the series, but he sped up towards the end. The reality is that how he ended that series was what pushed me over the edge with King. The ending was a total cop out, completely dissatisfying and stupid. I lost my faith in him as a writer then and very little he has done since has done anything to revive that faith. I read 11/22/63 and there is some piece of it that is unique, but I was turned off by numerous elements of the story that seemed to be him taking the easy way out. He includes references to old stories and old characters. When he first started doing that in his stories, I thought was cool. Now I think it’s a crutch that he can’t let go of. 😉

  6. Pamela Beckford April 15, 2016 at 4:32 am

    I do agree that some change. But I tend to believe it is more about the reader than the writer.

    • kingmidget April 15, 2016 at 6:43 am

      It most certainly can be about the reader and there are plenty of readers who want the comfort of sameness. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not one of those readers though.

  7. S.K. Nicholls April 15, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I have long been a lover of Anne Rice and her writing style. I fell in love with the Mayfair witches. Not into vampires, but the history she includes in her stories and the beautiful prose sucked me in. Her older erotica had me mesmerized. Then she wrote her evil angel series, her young Christ series and her werewolf series. I disliked them all. It just wasn’t there for me. Now she’s back to writing the vampires…but it’s gone.

    • kingmidget April 15, 2016 at 6:47 am

      I don’t except every book and story written by a writer to be a home run. But as I said in response to another comment, particularly for the writers who take years between books rather than churning them out at least one per year, I have higher expectations.

      And there are plenty of authors who you know are basically all about a formula. Mystery writers, for example.

      But writers of literary fiction who seem to want this mantle of art and ultra-creativity — well, again, I have higher expectations.

  8. Taryn (@taryngotham) April 15, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I haven’t read or commented here in quite a while, but this was such a great post – I could tell just from the little blurb on Goodreads that it was one I needed to read. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a cap on creativity, but I do think that some people have just one or two truly great pieces of work in them, and then they drop off a bit. For some, it may be that they succumb to the pressure of success and start producing less-than-stellar work. For others, it might just be that they only had this one thing to share, and I can appreciate that.

    • kingmidget April 15, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      You’re right … there are probably a range of variables that explain the drop off, or the variation between works by the same artist. I just think it’s interesting that there seem to be so very few that are able to produce high quality works over a long period of time.

      And thanks for stopping by. Haven’t seen your post on your blog for a long time. Hope I’m not missing anything and hope everything is well with you!

  9. Kathy April 15, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner are two authors I love. I haven’t found any it’s-the-same-as-the-last-book with either of them.

    • kingmidget April 15, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      I’ll have to give them a try at some point. Maybe it’s just me and my never-ending quest for something new — drives me away from the writers who find a formula and stick to it.

  10. Kathy April 15, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Like John Grisham? His formula has pretty much been the same but I like each book. Do you like continuing character books? Like someone mentioned the alphabet books. Love them! After a while it feels like they’re family, you’ve read them for so long. Janet Evanovich has written the number books: 1 for the money, 2 for the show…. I am always happy when a new continuing character book comes out, but I know so many people who aren’t interested in them.

    • kingmidget April 16, 2016 at 7:10 am

      I liked Grisham for a few books, but grew tired of his formula. Although he has mixed it up a bit — he doesn’t always write legal thrillers. I read the first couple of Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz, but not the last one or two. I guess I’m just not the type of person who wants to read the same formula. I need something new now and then. 😉

  11. Pingback: The Time That I Was Wrong | KingMidget's Ramblings

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