Most of my creative inspirations aren’t authors at all, or even ‘writers’, as such. One person I admire greatly is Hideo Kojima, the man behind the Metal Gear series, Policenauts, Snatcher, Zone of the Enders and quite a few others. Although I don’t always love his games, I like them because for better or worse they feel so personal. I’d much rather play (or watch or read or otherwise experience) the vision of one auteur than that of a committee.
I read a short interview thing with Kojima recently, here, although it’s on one of those blasted sites that requires registration to read anything. In the interview he said something that struck a chord:
“I’ve never created something that completely satisfies me.”
I think most ‘creators’ can relate to this–I believe that as an author, I am more aware of the flaws and shortcomings in my own work than anyone else could ever be. With every single thing I’ve ever created, I can see how it could be improved, how it could be made better, or at least how its flaws could be made less obvious or smoothed over. The obvious question is, “So why don’t you change it?”, to which the general answer is, “I would, except I’ve too busy with my next project”. Of course, I’m talking about the ‘finished product’, the result of writing and editing and proofing until it’s polished as much as it can be. Once something’s at that point, I find it very difficult to go back and change anything, which is part of why outlining is so valuable to me. Once something’s written, it’s painful to tear it apart or even cut it out–I’ll do it, if it serves the story and makes the book as a whole better, but it’s never easy. That’s why I try my best to detect these not-quite-good-enough aspects in the outlining or note stages of creation, to snuff them out before they’ve wormed their way into even the first draft. Of course, it’s difficult to get them all, but with every book I write I feel I get a little better at predicting what will work and what won’t.
Back to Kojima, these were his closing comments:
“Creating something is about turning impossible things into possible things, things you want to be able to do. If it gets to the point were I’m able to create anything I want, I’ll probably stop making videogames.”
I don’t find this quite as relevant to myself, as pure writing gives you an infinite canvas; literally anything you imagine can be a part of your work. However, as an author it’s your job to make these infinite impossibilities ‘true’–in whatever way, it’s up to you to get the reader to come along with you and accept your world. Whether you achieve this with an over the top ‘beyond the impossible’ tone ala Gurren Lagann or intensely detailed realism (even for unrealistic things) or whatever other method fits your personal style doesn’t matter so much, just as long as you can get the reader to accept what you’re showing them.
Still, whatever you’re creating and however you’re creating it, I think becoming totally satisfied with what you’re creating can be dangerous. It’s nice to have the tools and experience necessary to bring your ideas to life, but without that drive to better yourself I think some artists lose their way and become complacent–and there’s also that fear, of creating something you feel you’ll never surpass.
In my case, I’m not worried about that just yet. I’ve been writing for a long time but I feel like I’m just beginning. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve felt competent enough to truly consider myself a writer, only recently that I’ve achieved an understanding of plot and story and what works and what doesn’t work and what sometimes works and what can be made to work … but no matter how happy I am with what I’ve written, when I’m done and it’s proofed and polished and nicely formatted and ready to send out into the world, my thoughts are usually along the lines of, “This is okay, this is pretty good. The next one will be better.”