When a composer writes a piece of music, and someone performs it, or when someone writes a book, or makes a movie, there is a ton of detail that goes into it. And I imagine that this is true even when the novel is not a best-seller, but only does averagely well.

When they made Skyfall, for instance, the first time we see Severine, she has a very striking hairdo. A striking hairdo that involves lots of hairpins presumably. There has to be someone who manages the hairpins. Sure, it’s part of some large make-up department, however, it still takes a real human to take care of that detail at the end of the day — that there be hairpins as and when needed, and that the hairdo be just so.

Similarly, when you sing, say, the Bach Magnificat, there are many (many!) 16th notes to take care of. He took care to write them in, the singers have to take care to sing them, and the orchestra has to take care to play them. There is a lot of detail that has to be got right.

And when a novelist puts in the details of how a room was, what was on the table, and what the protagonist was wearing, well, she is figuring out those details and writing them in too.

What I wonder sometimes is, how much of this gets conveyed to the reader, or listener or viewer. What if the hairpins go missing and the hairdo is not just so, what if some 16th notes get omitted or some accidentals are missed, what if the details of what is on the table are missing? Does it make a difference? The detail that is in the creator’s head, what part of it can truly be conveyed to the consumer?

Perhaps a fellow novelist will take notice of what is on the table, perhaps someone who has performed the Bach Magnificat and has a keen ear will notice the wrong notes, perhaps a hairdresser watching Skyfall will notice that the hairdo is not just so. But for the vast majority of the consumers, the details just get washed out to a large extent. It only matters that she looked great, that the music sounded good, that the plot of the novel moved forward.

Whenever I create something, be it in the kitchen, or a Diwali aakaash kandil, I know what design decisions I am making — whether to put cinnamon or not, whether to make 8 inch squares or 9 inch squares — and I have a sense of how they affect the final result, and what I might do differently next time. But to someone eating the cake or seeing the kandil, does it make a difference?

Perhaps this is the loneliness of the creator. To have such an intimate knowledge of the thing — not complete knowledge, not unique knowledge, for someone may read the novel and interpret in a wholly new way, that the novelist never intended — and never be able to convey it fully to anyone. Perhaps there can be a tinge of creatorly arrogance in there too — “only I know why it tastes so great, and you never will.” But it must be the loneliness that dominates, I feel certain. Perhaps this is why we need the readers, and the listeners and the viewers — so that the keepers of the hairpins don’t get too lonely.

Advertisements