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Inspiration from Stephen R. Donaldson

June 3, 2008

I ran across an amazing quote the other day while reading through Stephen R. Donaldson’s The One Tree; the second book in the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. I know that most of you have never read these books, but I picked up the first chronicle a little over a year ago because, a) they came highly recommended; and b) they were tent-poles of the fantasy genre thirty years ago. I have taken a long break between the first and second chronicles, but found the second just as intriguing as I remember the first being. 

Now, as a disclaimer, these are in no way a light read, I do not recommend these books to the faint of heart. They are epic fantasy at its finest, loaded with description and above all philosophical reminiscing. Now, it is the philosophical reminiscing that really drew me into the novels, because I am always fascinated by the varying truths hidden in philosophy. Most philosophy found in these novels is a load of garbage, but beneath the constant obscuration of reality I found this amazing quote that I wanted to share with my readers.

It’s hard to explain. I guess the question is, are you a person-with volition and maybe some stubbornness and at least the capacity if not the actual determination to do something surprising-or are you a tool? A tool just serves its user. It’s only as good as the skill of its user, and it’s not good for anything else. So if you want to accomplish something special-something more than you can do for yourself-you can’t use a tool. You have to use a person and hope the surprises work in your favor. You have to use something that’s free to not be what you had in mind.

As you probably guessed, the part that is in bold stood out to me the most. In the creative world there are so many times that a single person attempts complete domination over a project. They have a vision, and no one can fault them for that, but by taking control over it they limit it to their own capacity for creativity. The only way something can be greater than the creativity of a single person is for that person to be willing to take a chance on other individuals in the hope that all the surprises that come along will work out in their favor. This quote can be summed up by saying, “truly creative content cannot exist under micro-management.”

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