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Theme Based Writing: A Taboo?

I published an article in TIC a week before titled “Where do Themes Come From?”, which pointed its major claims towards helping the writing student of a beginning writer to manage the days during or after a so-called writer's block, effectively. Whether ‘writer's block’ is a social reality or psychological state, I do not wish to comment. I do have experiences of psychological states where, as a writer, I felt immense fear and lethargy to move forward. Call this a ‘writer's block’.

Three ideas became the main focus of “Where do Themes Come From?”. First was the significance of ‘themes’ in any literary work of art. Here, I did not intent to advice anyone regarding limiting the beginning writer’s imagination and the splash of creativity into a few organized, pre-chosen topics, like “truth wins” or “perspiration is the best step to success”. I made it very clear in the article too, saying, “Without a central theme to blow life into it, a story, article, or poem is just a bunch of words, connected at the whim of a lunatic. Art relies mostly on not just the medium of artistry, but also, for the most part on what is being told through the medium.”
Image Courtesy: Stephen King

If someone reads this part, he or she can clearly comprehend that my intention in using the term ‘theme’ is not at all limiting the writer’s imagination and talent into some bone dry, high school style writing lesson. By the common theme in a literary art, I meant the connecting commonality that strings all the sprouts of genius into one totality, a book, or story. This element is what I meant, by ‘theme’. If someone is not clear on this idea, let me open it up once again, and it carries no high school model writing tips.

Second idea I mentioned was, where to find these connecting central themes. I said one could find them in one’s surroundings. There are no short cuts in finding themes. No webpage or writing class can guide the writer in this direction. They have to discover these ‘themes’ from their own life experiences. It is not easy, though. That is where ‘writing prompts’ come in.   

The third idea was “writing prompts” and their immense use to someone experiencing a writer's block. Writing prompts could be great source of inspiration for a writer with the regret that he or she could not put the best time in their precious lives into writing, due to some psychological block. Having full page of your not-the-best-work sometimes feels better that staring into a blank page with a void instead of an organ that was supposed adorn the upper end of the neck.
Image Courtesy: Dean Koontz
I would like to thank some of my readers, who found it greatly unsettling that I mentioned ‘themes are crucial’, in the introductory part of the article. It is clear that, perhaps due to the lack of time or their general temperament, they haven’t gone deeper into the article, and did not read it completely. That is what I attribute their great unsettlement to. However, I am grateful too. It is because of them, I am able to compose this article and share the insights with better clarity with the world.

I shared the link to “Where do Themes Come From?” in a Facebook Group, and the discussion started with a fierce criticism has not ended yet, until the moment I publish this article. This is in fact one of the lengthy discussions my blog ever triggered in Facebook. It is curious to observe how easily people are attracted towards negative views and manipulated ideas in social media. It is as if something negative satiates some inner urge. Gory and painful images, nudity, immoral behavior and bad mouthing others get more “likes”, “shares” and “comments” in Facebook.

In “Where do Themes Come From?” my intention was to make sense of the traditional notion of ‘themes’ and ‘writing prompts’ as best measures to keep a personal daily writing schedule. Oxford Dictionary defines ‘theme’: “an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature: love and honour are the pivotal themes of the Hornblower books”. It is not only limited to a classroom environment, in this context.

In an American context it indicates, “An essay written by a school pupil on a particular subject,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Perhaps, some of them were drawn into their mean conclusion due to this difference in understanding the word.
Image Courtesy: Ken Follett

Clearly, some comments manipulated the article and its message into a limited one, saying that it’s all high school crap. Among this entire conundrum, I noticed a paradox. Almost all the comments came from writers, and a few, who made the negative remarks on the article, were arguing for the Wordsworthian idea of “spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions.” In other words, they stood for randomness and spontaneity over consistency. I agree creativity is essentially about going outside the normal. However, my suggestion was that in order to attain that inspired state one needs to enter into some states of initiation, which can be attained through practicing a regular writing schedule. However, framing spontaneity to be the only essential element in writing is paradoxical, when creative writing, essentially, is going beyond frameworks.


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