How far should you let people peek inside your creative process?


In the era of the social Web -- when it's possible to tweet, blog or status update every miniscule fact of one's life -- it's fashionable to opine that every personal detail and inner thought should be made public. After all, if you're not going to do it, someone else will. But just how far should you let people peek inside your creative process?


It's a question that I've been pondering for the past 48 hours, having just completed Vladimir Nabokov's posthumously published work, The Original of Laura. To make a long story short, Nabokov (pictured, left) passed away in 1977 and left strict orders to his family that the unfinished work that he was writing on his deathbed - what turned out to be The Original of Laura - should be burned upon his death if it had not been completed. Nearly 30 years later, Nabokov's son Dmitri cobbled together his father's meticulously numbered notecards and had the book published as "a novel in fragments." In an ingenious piece of PR for the book, pubishing house Alfred A. Knopf actually included copies of Nabokov's notecards as perforated pieces of pages of the novel. (If you pick up Nabokov's novel at the local bookstore, the book weighs in at a hefty-looking 275 pages, but due to the double-sided notecards and the heavy stock of paper used to publish the book, there's really only about 50-100 pages of content. A Nabokov-aholic can easily finish the book in under 90 minutes.)

What's fascinating about Nabokov's new book, of course, is that you actually see all of Nabokov's words as they appear on his notecards - complete with smudges, cross-outs, words scrawled out in Russian and French (he was trilingual) and annotated notes to himself about titles of chapters and key points he wants to make about his characters. There's one page of the book that's a full-on discussion of the precise word that Nabokov would like to describe a female character (fille, in French) and how best to render that word in English, while keeping the connotations and meaning of the word in French. If you're a scholar of Russian literature or a huge Nabokov fan, it's a real treat to see the internal gearings of his mind at work.

If, however, you're a casual Nabokov fan with only a passing interest in Nabokov's wonderful facility for wordplay and his clever post-modernist literary devices, you're bound to be disappointed. There appear to be re-thinkings of plot lines from Lolita (a character named Hubert H. Hubert and a nymph-girl named Flora), thin allusions to other Nabokovian themes and plot lines, and even misspelings ("bycycle") that Nabokov's son Dmitri did not see fit to edit.

At the end of the day, the creative genius of individuals is based, to some large part, on the ability to edit and harness the pure outflow of talent and imagination and put it into a format for others to appreciate. In the business world, it would be like a consultant showing up for a final client presentation with only a stack of note cards and some creative ideas about the points he/she would like to make, rather than a full-formed presentation deck that had been tirelessly rehearsed and edited. Clients are paying not only for the creative imagination that goes into the final recommendations and suggestions, but also for the discipline and rigor that goes into the final presentation deck.

Which is to say that I think there's some part of the creative process that should remain hidden. What do you think?


[image: A notecard from "The Original of Laura"]

‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

Surprising Science
  • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
  • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
  • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Keep reading Show less

There are 5 eras in the universe's lifecycle. Right now, we're in the second era.

Astronomers find these five chapters to be a handy way of conceiving the universe's incredibly long lifespan.

Image based on logarithmic maps of the Universe put together by Princeton University researchers, and images produced by NASA based on observations made by their telescopes and roving spacecraft

Image source: Pablo Carlos Budassi
Surprising Science
  • We're in the middle, or thereabouts, of the universe's Stelliferous era.
  • If you think there's a lot going on out there now, the first era's drama makes things these days look pretty calm.
  • Scientists attempt to understand the past and present by bringing together the last couple of centuries' major schools of thought.
Keep reading Show less

Astrophysicists find unique "hot Jupiter" planet without clouds

A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.

Illustration of WASP-62b, the Jupiter-like planet without clouds or haze in its atmosphere.

Credit: M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
  • Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
  • Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Keep reading Show less

Lair of giant predator worms from 20 million years ago found

Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.

Bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois)

Credit: Rickard Zerpe / Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
  • The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
  • The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

FOSTA-SESTA: Have controversial sex trafficking acts done more harm than good?

The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast