Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Tom Stoppard on the creative process

with 6 comments

It is not like playing the violin—not difficult in that way. The difficulties vary at different stages. The first is that you haven’t got anything you wish to write a play about. Then you get an idea, but it might be several ideas that could belong to two or three plays. Finally, if you are lucky, they may fit into the same play. The next difficulty, as I said before, is to translate these abstract ideas into concrete situations. That is a very long and elaborate period. Another difficulty is knowing when to start; it’s chicken and egg—you don’t know what you’re going to write until you start, and you can’t start until you know. Finally, in some strange, quantum-mechanical way, the two trains arrive on the same line without colliding, and you can begin. The following stage is not exactly pleasant but exciting and absorbing—you live with the fear that “it” may go away. There is a three-month period when I don’t want to say good morning to anyone lest I miss the thought that would make all the difference.

Tom Stoppard, to The Paris Review

Written by nevalalee

February 13, 2011 at 9:22 am

Posted in Theater, Writing

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. Interesting and very similar to my experiences and process.

    Yorick von Fortinbras

    February 13, 2011 at 9:29 am

  2. I recognise a lot of this creative process… and was it you that had a quote from someone recently about writing being like deep-sea diving? Something about it taking a long time to get down to where the real work happens, which ends up being only about 10% of the time spent in front of the computer (or whatever)? I’ve experienced that process as well…

    Jon Vagg

    February 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

  3. @Jon: That wasn’t me, but I like that quote!

    nevalalee

    February 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm

  4. Tom, with all due respect…

    Just start! “Yabba dabba do…”

    You may write 100 pages and end up with one. It’s like making a reduction sauce.

    You have to love writing!

    “There is a three-month period when I don’t want to say good morning to anyone lest I miss the thought that would make all the difference…”

    If I were married to him, he might get murdered. Or at least divorced.

    Not say “good morning”. What kind of artistic animal are you?

    A writer…

    Arthur

    February 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm

  5. Tom wrote “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” so he is a god in my book.

    Arthur

    February 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm

  6. His play Travesties was a major influence on my novel, although it would spoil the fun to say why.

    nevalalee

    February 14, 2011 at 7:26 am


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