I love learning about people’s creative processes, so I often read memoirs, biographies, and guides written by writers, painters, choreographers, scientists, and more.
One terrific book of this type is On Writing, by Stephen King. Just about everyone has heard of Stephen King: he’s the author of enormously popular novels such as The Shining, Salem’s Lot, The Green Mile, Carrie, and Misery. Many of his books and short stories have also been made into very popular movies, such as Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption.
Because I’m a fan of his work, I’m particularly interested in Stephen King’s thoughts on creativity.
In his book On Writing, he made an observation that I keep thinking about. In reflecting on his imagination and its ties to his own past, he writes:
A block down the hill, not far from Teddy’s Market and across from Burrets Building Materials, was a huge tangled wilderness area with a junkyard on the far side and a train track running through the middle. This is one of the places I keep returning to in my imagination; it turns up in my books and stories again and again, under a variety of names. Stephen King, On Writing
I know Stephen King’s work well enough that I recognize this place, in some of its incarnations.
His observation made me stop to think – with my favorite artists, do they return again and again to the same subject? For instance, like Paul Cezanne and his paintings of apples.
It also made me reflect: Is there a certain landscape or situation that I keep returning to, in my imagination? I think for me, it’s the local library we visited when I was a child in Kansas City. Over and over, I return to libraries and try to create a “library feeling” in my work. I write about that library, and its particular smell, in my book Life in Five Senses.
How about you?