Simplicity And Being Neat – Let The Writer Beware


The other day, someone was going the long way around explaining a problem they had and I just said straight out what I thought. The person agreed with me and told me what I had said was “simple.” I disagreed and said it was not simplicity but precision and there is a difference.

I was reading a review of a Beatles album and the reviewer remarked on the child-like simplicity of John Lennon’s imagery.. Again, I disagreed. If writing songs was that simple, there would be millions of John Lennons walking the earth easily writing stuff as good as his repertoire and it ain’t so. It was not the simplicity of his imagery, it was the precision he had to be able to concoct such razor-sharp images within the confines of a three-minute pop song that differentiates him from others. His mindset was unique.

“Neat” is another way of saying “simple.” A review of John Carpenter’s Halloween praised the “straight-arrow neatness” of the plot. That’s another way of damning it with faint praise that it’s simple. However, just look at all the hundreds of lousy Halloween imitators that flooded the world’s screens after it’s success. They copied the characters, the settings, the camerawork, the music and none of those films are held in high regard today but Halloween still is. That’s because not everyone thinks like John Carpenter. His mindset was and is unique also.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes being creative as “the use of the imagination to create something.” Now should that “something”, creativity itself, be judged? I think not. The effectiveness of the idea should be all that matters not the idea itself taken out of context and misjudged. Writers, like all artists, are sensitive people and comments like “simple” and “neat” are not an accurate reflection of the creative process and should be used sparingly. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps simplicity and neatness are too.

© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.

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