Shoebox (shoebox2) wrote in binky_betsy,

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Lynn's... creative... take on creativity.

This was originally a response to clio's LJ post on Lynn's speech at the Schulz Museum, before I realised that I had enough material on this particular issue for a full-fledged rant.

Lynn is talking about imagining stories like it's some incredible weird thing that's very very rare. Like no one else imagines things or daydreams, it's only comic strip writers, and herself in particular.

Ladies and gentlemen, Lynn Johnston: internationally acclaimed artist who has absolutely no idea how art is created.

This comes up repeatedly in her public statements, and it's developing a perverse fascination for me. We've all run into the reverse -- badly-made media, sure; pretentious creators who think their cheezy vampire saga (for instance) is the be-all and end-all of literature, absolutely. But never before have I encountered a decent artist who achieved a significant level of acclaim while operating on the assumption that it's supposed to be derivative, dull and unimaginative.

This is a woman who thinks daydreaming is a special gift only bestowed on blue moons, and imagination either the sign of  rare and special genius, or a weapon to be used against her 'enemies'. Who thinks that you can't write about anything other than what you know from direct experience; that you can't alter a developing story, or refuse to let your characters dictate 'their' preferences (let alone drop them altogether).
Who apparently quite sincerely believes that her insights are those of the entire mass of mankind, and that jokes she recalls from her childhood are still cutting-edge hilarious. And who thinks that writers who do create from scratch are operating under some sort of mediumesque trance that entirely separates them from normal human interaction -- up to and including choosing their 'muse' over helping their children not be crispy-fried in a house fire.

Her limitations become obvious when you turn to her travel writing. As it happens I've been on a course of Michael Palin's books based on his BBC journeys, and it's a really interesting comparison -- OK, granted, as a member of Monty Python Palin is already part of one of the great creative efforts of the twentieth century, but still, the contrast between his idea of gently comic travel chronicles and Lynn's is instructive. Not least because he covers much of the same stuff Lynn does (in some of the same places, too): Day-to-day minutiae of travel, personal discomforts arising therein, hotel rooms... even full and free details re: each 'loo' he encounters, to the point where it's a mild running gag. His books are fully as much  a record of how aggravating it can be for a middle-aged Westerner to tour outside their comfort zone as a they are a paean to the wonders of multiculturalism.

Thing is, throughout the whole thing Palin's writing sparkles with life, light, wittiness -- everything Lynn's leaden prose fails to accomplish. His anecdotes are well-chosen and his attitude is honest but still open to possibilities. His stories are told against himself, not with entitlement. He has, in short, imagination and he is using it. Not a great secret by any means.

I wonder if Lynn will ever figure that out.

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