“When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” This, from Abraham Maslow, the founder of Humanistic Psychology. I always liked his focus on the positive and not looking at individuals as ‘bags of problems.’ But what I really like about what he said was the plea to abandon formulas in favor of real thinking.
For people making a living from writing, formulas are a crutch and a necessity if they want to sell their work. Witness the plethora of writing courses and seminars, and degree programs in creative writing. My father used to sniff at the mention of these, saying, “I’d like to see a program in non-creative writing.” To him that would have been a more appropriate label for those degrees.
My father was a gifted writer, but he made a living teaching history, not from the exquisitely enigmatic poetry he wrote.
When I began my writing it was not formulaic. It became more so as I struggled to confirm to editors and critique-buddies’ suggestions. I find myself in a quandary now. Writing a new story is easier than ever but the result is more forgettable and leaves little residue.
Here’s what I’m after: the most deliciously luscious brownie in the world- made without chocolate, or a prize-winning pie that eats us back. Something to get me out of Ho-Hum town. A great travel story that never leaves home. When I figure it out I’ll let you know.
I’ve incorporated a lot of ‘how to,’ and now I need to figure out how to forget some of it. This last year almost every thing I tackled began to resemble a nail. Problem-quick-one-two-three-resolution- nailed it.
I must put the hammer down. Maybe look deeper into the tool box, or even outside of it.