Saturday, January 11, 2014

Uncreative writing (or re-purposing!)

stuck here
on noisy, incoherent, thuggish earth
is a tribe of lousy carpet weavers
trying to pattern their lives

it's not violence alone in the air
he fell for a mexican dancer
she searches for the mother who left her
an old woman she resembles

they say here, it's not for the kiddies
but this kid's applied for a job as an angel
a job dark, demanding
and he's already keeping busy
with a city making heroes of gangsters


How does the above poem sound to you? I wrote it, but you can argue that it is no creation of my own, because it is simply a mash-up of phrases taken from the 'G' and 'A' lists of a Movie Encyclopedia- a list of film titles and a one-line description of their stories. Conceptual poetry may not be everyone's cup of tea, but in the words of the Creative Writing professor who inspired this poem, 'writing has got to get up, make a move on and catch up with the changes of times.' An artist in 1969 said: “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” Well, the world is full of texts now- vast, unbelievable amounts of texts, and according to literary critic Marjorie Perloff, our notion of 'genius' is outdated. The changes brought on by the Internet mean it is no longer about what additional text you add to the world, but around the mastery of the incredible amounts of information available to us and its dissemination.

There is a course in the University of Pennsylvania called 'Uncreative Writing'. Students are penalised for showing any shred of originality. They re-type what has already been written, improve on it. They present essays written by other people and defend the arguments the essays hold. The result? By suppressing 'creativity', the students produce the most creative works. Because it is impossible to repress self expression. Even the way you reframe a piece of writing, what you chose to work on and how you chose to refine it, tells as much about yourself as a piece originally written by you.

What do you think?


  1. wow its amazing!!! :O

    Who knew suppressing creativity makes this? I'm confused and inspired all at the same time. haha

    1. Try it out :) There's relief in the pressure of being original and creative removed.

  2. Oh, wow! This is really interesting. I may have heard similar things before. Thank you!

  3. That Uncreative writing course sounds interesting. Although in India we had some thing called "add to enhance" meaning take a poem and see if you can make an abstract turn into realistic. Also in Bollywood they took a bunch of songs and made an entirely new song. This happened in 1991 and then again sometimes this century. It was actually fun.

  4. One can always make something better. As writers we prove that every time we rewrite something.

  5. Ghadeer! I am so proud of you. This is simply AMAZING.

  6. I can see why uncreative writing brings out the most creativity in people. It's such an awesome idea. Your poem was superb.

  7. The poem actually made sense to me. I pictured a rapidly modernizing village in which the poet is 'stuck'. The second paragraph felt like it was describing the lives of the people in the said place. Love the original in the unoriginality. (Hope that made sense)

  8. It's weirdly uplifting, isn't it? I mean, have you ever had a story idea, or even started writing a story, and at some point you realise/someone points out that it's very similar to something else, even if you hadn't actually read/watched/heard that 'something else' at the time you got the idea or started writing? I've had this experience umpteen times and it usually gets me down, but if even forced suppression of creativity brings out this kind of jazz... I feel like it can't be held against you. It's still you. I don't even know if that makes sense.

    But thanks for fulfilling my 'you learn something everyday' ;D

    1. Exactly, it's still you! Everything you create is a mashup of all that has inspired you to create it, but the way you mash them up, what you choose to mash up, puts some of your soul in it, and that makes it entirely yours and as original as the pieces that inspired you in the first place.

      A big part of our personalities themselves are a mix of the people we are surrounded with and influenced by. Are we going to call that unoriginal now? :D

  9. This is highly inspiring. Firstly, the poem is amazing, and you are definitely right about the creativity coming out. I actually never thought about it this way... at the end of the day, no matter what you copy, what you plagiarize, it is you who has to put it all together, and make sure it makes sense- a quite intellectually demanding job, if you ask me. Unless you're the kid in my class who copied the entire thing, and merely pasted it into a word document, you are employing some sort of your creativity.

    About the course, I think it's a brilliant idea! The concept of the course itself is so creative! My brain is buzzing with happy thoughts right now..... so glad I read this post.

  10. That's the best thing about creativity, everything is original when you touch what already exists. I loved it. Might even try it. :)

    Thanks as always for the kind comments.

  11. That is very interesting. I do like the poem, especially the first part.I like the analogy.

  12. "lousy carpet weavers trying to pattern their lives" - LOVE THIS . . . I mean - I love the entire idea . . I just had a class where we were asked to clip a piece of prose and make poetry from the words . . . it was super fun . . BUT, this completely rocks . . .

  13. Where have you disappeared to?

  14. I can actually agree with it. Because with the amount of talent out there, can we really call an idea original? And not having to worry about total uniqueness and creativity can be a breather. So I'm gonna try this for sure.


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