“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation”
Normally I’m not a fan of reality TV. But I love watching HGTV shows and Project Runway. I love the lightened drama and the various types of colors and styles that come out of those shows. But mostly, they speak to the artist in me. I’m not a painter, sculptor, or fashion designer. I’m pretty bad when it comes to home design. But Creativity is creativity, and for an author, there is a lot to learn on these shows.
Watching the first two episodes of project runway, and reminded of the past seasons, Here are some things that I think transcend all types of creativity, and apply especially, to writing.
1) Tell a story…
Duh. When it comes to writing, we are obviously telling a story. But it is more than just the here and now. A lot of the designers on project runway choose a character who has a past and a future. When we are writing our stories, we have to remember that our characters do not just live on that page, but are a person who has layers and layers of history and dreams that inform
2) … but yours (or in the case of writing, the main character’s) isn’t the only story.
Especially in team challenges, the designers on project runway are either competing with each other to be better than their teammates, or they lose their own voice to their pushy teammates. Likewise, when an author is writing a story, the main character isn’t the only one in the story. The cast of characters play a part in the larger story. The setting plays a part. Plot points. Genre. The moral. They all add to the overall story, and we can’t lose those details because we are only writing about the main character.
3) Be true to your aesthetic.
Sometimes the designers take a risk or go boring, because their work was criticized the week before. The art becomes something different from their design aesthetic. Different from the language that their art usually speaks.
Similarly, authors are told to write what they know. Even in genre fiction, authors write from the heart, finding similarities of surroundings or stories that they relate to. Sure, I would love to write a historical romance set in Shakespearian times, but how good would it honestly be?
4) Be original.
Again, a duh. But sometimes designers come out with dresses that I can find at Ross, on discount. Similarly, why are there authors out there still trying to write about sexy vampires? Why are we still coming up with stories about teenagers falling in love in an unrealistic and (apparently) “true love” romance? Aren’t there more stories to tell?
5) Make it work
How many times have we heard Tim Gunn say this? But really, writer’s block sucks balls. With my thesis, it literally sets me into panic attacks. But even with my creative writing, when I hit writer’s block, all the stupid and negative thoughts pop up and halt my progress. And, you know what? I have to push on through. Write that bad scene, chapter, dialogue. Get past it and move on. You can come back and clean it up. At some point, you may hit inspiration and rewrite the whole scene. MAKE IT WORK.
It’s hard to come up with something completely new. But we humans have the same dreams and make the same mistakes. It’s just reimagined to fit our age and culture. Reimagine, create and develop. You’ll create something beautiful and worthy of the runway.