12/21/13

Uncreative Writing by Kenneth Goldsmith

The secret: the suppression of self-expression is impossible. Even when we do something as seemingly "uncreative" as retyping a few pages, we express ourselves in a variety of ways. The act of choosing and reframing tells us as much about ourselves as our story about our mother's cancer operation. It's just that we've never been taught to value such choices. After a semester of forcibly suppressing a student's "creativity" by making them plagiarize and transcribe, she will approach me with a sad face at the end of the semester, telling me how disappointed she was because, in fact, what we had accomplished was not uncreative at all; by not being "creative," she produced the most creative body of work writing in her life. By taking an opposite approach to creativity—the most trite, overused, and ill-defined concept in a writer's training—she had emerged renewed and rejuvenated, on fire and in love again with writing.

Having worked in advertising for many years as a "creative director," I can tell you that, despite what cultural pundits might say, creativity—as it's been defined by our culture with its endless parade of formulaic novels, memoirs, and films—is the thing to flee from, not only as a member of the "creative class" but also as a member of the "artistic class." Living when technology is changing the rules of the game in every aspect of our lives, it's time to question and tear down such cliches and lay them out on the floor in front of us, then reconstruct these smoldering embers into something new, something contemporary, something—finally—relevant.