Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026247, Fri, 26 Jun 2015 15:27:22 -0300

Creativity on Small Spaces: writing in cramped rooms and



<http://impakter.com/author/jocelyn-sun/> YUDI SUN

on 12 June, 2015 at 12:00


Russian author Nabokov, who graced the literary world with pieces such as
Lolita (1955) and Pale Fire (1962), produced nearly all of his works on the
limited medium of a standard index card. His final and longest piece Ada
(1969) spanned the length of 589 book pages and more than 2,000 index cards.
The story goes that Nabokov would write on his index cards as his wife drove
him on butterfly expeditions.

When asked what the greatest pleasure of writing is, Nabokov's response was
that, "there is the first satisfaction of arranging it on a bit of paper."
During another interview about his daily routine, Vladimir revealed that he
played "skrebl," Scrabble with the Cyrillic alphabet, for an hour or two
after dinner daily. For him, the ability to edit, arrange and rearrange was
a pleasure that went unescaped.

On his methods, he said, "The pattern of the thing precedes the thing. I
fill in the gaps of the crossword at any spot I happen to choose. These bits
I write on index cards until the novel is done. My schedule is flexible, but
I am rather particular about my instruments: lined Bristol cards and well
sharpened, not too hard, pencils capped with erasers."

Society appears to be embracing the quirks of the wayward artist, who
scrawls their disjointed and difficult to capture thoughts on a receipt
scrap or a paper cup. Such an artist binds and locks their Houdini-like
imaginations to something that could be easily blown away by a gust of wind,
but the commitment of words and art to any kind of displayable medium serves
more as a marriage than an imprisonment.

Author JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series, is notorious for the
story that she committed the first concepts of a magical world on an
airplane vomit bag. Thereafter, Australian musician and now published author
Nick Cave put together a book called The Sick Bag Song, a collection of
various pieces and thoughts scrawled similarly on the freely distributed
paper property of airlines.

Literary purists may argue that creating on such a limited medium is hardly
conducive to continuous thought, especially not beneficial to the lengths
and continuity expected of communication through writing. Certainly, a long
and standard sheet of lined paper is the preferred medium for any kind of
creation in the elementary, intermediate and high school levels. But as
we've seen with Nabokov and others, the casual conveyal of startling topics
on an index card or some other small medium seems to make for ease of
consumption and creation.

Alternatively, Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac penned On the Road on a
120 ft scroll of papers taped together for means of preserving his
continuous thought. Kerouac is arguably the opposite kind of writer than
Nabokov altogether, his thoughts born to near permanence on a medium that
can hardly be rearranged.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine which is the better
technique of the two. Their respective users, Kerouac and Nabokov, cannot be
fairly compared in their literary talent either.

Alternatively today, another kind of author exists. Creating on the small
screens of mobile phones, but armed with the limitless information available
behind their fingertips, and on the modern luxury of an infinite scroll, the
authors who write the swan songs of the 21st century are neither Nabokov's
nor Kerouac's. Sometimes they are bound by the 140 characters of a text box,
other times a limitless number of characters, but funneled into the small,
inches wide screen of a smart phone. The shrinking of standard web displays
to be mobile-friendly is quite the opposite of Nabokov's creative process.
We take content born on larger displays and shrink them down to summaries,
mincing images, displays and even at times, words.

The development of modern technology has given us the luxury of creating in
whatever order we so please and in whatever lengths. A modern day Kerouac
need not tape together pages and pages just to maintain his train of thought
and a modern Nabokov need not use thousands of index cards to be able to
change things around at will.

Undeniably, the modern author has been so aided by the improvements in
technology that whatever method they choose is never hindered by physical
limitations. The middle medium of paper drafts has become optional, and in
becoming so, has made it easier than ever to produce and produce and

There is no doubt that more content is created today than ever before, any
person becoming a published author with the help of social media, blogs and
forums. The question ultimately becomes, is this new content of a better or
worse quality than before? Has our departure from pen and paper, scrolls and
index cards, compromised our abilities to produce or has it enhanced and
aided our creative processes?

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