Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the Theme of Themes

I like this by A L Kennedy on the Guardian books blog, which expresses exactly what I feel about being asked to write stories according to predetermined themes:
I object on principle to unhelpful restrictions of time and subject, because I got into writing at least in part so that no one could tell me what to do or think. I neither like nor thrive upon that kind of interference and it doesn't necessarily help me to grow or develop my capacities. I also don't relish restrictions being placed upon a form which should be able to roam free and express itself as it wishes. Sometimes a subject is an inspiration or chimes with an idea you've already got, but often a magazine, or a newspaper, or a bunch of people who say they want to save the short story will end up constricting imaginative and technical scope and making sure much of what they receive will resemble slightly over-emotional op-ed articles. This doesn't help the uninitiated to think well of the short story. And would anyone phone up a writer and ask them to write a themed novel?
I also like Darragh McManus's tribute on the same blog to Margaret Atwood on her 70th birthday, which is a nice counterbalance to Robert McCrum's recent dismissal of the powers of older writers.

5 comments:

SueG said...

Hear! Hear! That's why I never submit to anything that has a designated theme -- unless I already have written something on it.

nmj said...

It is embarrassingly long since I wrote a short story, but I could never write to order, that's why I have never entered writing competitions where there is a theme, though once I took a story I already had and tweaked it a bit to make it fit, it got longlisted, but I have not done so since. It's so true, you would never be asked to write a themed novel!

Sheenagh Pugh said...

Restrictions on theme don't work for me, but deadlines most certainly do. Concentrates the mind, especially if there's also an incentive, like a competition with lots of dosh... No doubt many don't need this, but those of us who were born idle are sometimes grateful for carrots and sticks.

Comicspott said...

Read the new AL Kennedy story collection WHAT BECOMES. It's excellent!

Elizabeth Baines said...

Am intending to!