The ideas I keep coming back to

I remember back when as a child, when I had strong impulses to write but not as much practical knowledge or exercise of the craft, I first noted that some people seemed to often come back to the same ideas or even tropes in their stories again and again, particularly as their bodies of work got larger. At the time I was somewhat judgmental of it; why would you repeat yourself like that? Didn’t those writers have any new ideas? I felt like I had literally dozens and dozens of story ideas that all felt meaningfully different, so it seemed uncreative to return to concepts you’d explored before in a new piece.

As I became more knowledgeable and experienced, I think I’ve found the truth, as it often is, to be somewhere in the middle. Yes, often very prolific writers do end up reproducing work they’ve basically done before and quit creating new characters, new scenarios, or new takes on the ideas they’re dealing with, and that can represent a kind of creative death. But that isn’t necessarily happening just because you find yourself dealing with the same concepts or themes in more than one piece. You can explore those ideas from different viewpoints, examine them in different ways. By placing similar notions in different contexts, you can see how the different circumstances change things. If done thoughtfully, and if truly taken from different angles, it can make lead to greater depth and complexity in the ideas’ expression in your work.

When I came to realize this, and as I started writing more and more, I found myself examining how I dealt with this in my own work. I often invoke this under the conception of the Creator Thumbprint, the TV Tropes notion marking how writers tend to work with the concepts that interest them over and over again in a way that is unique to them. Partially because I’m amused by it, partially because I believe I improve my work by being self-aware and analytical concerning my own habits, and partially because I want to avoid the trap of actually repeating myself. I want to keep track of this so that I ensure actually do have different perspective on the things I examine repeatedly, so each new take actually adds new dimension.

In the days to come I’m going to write entries examining my preferred tropes, the ones that emerge most frequently in my work and the ones I’m currently feeling most interested in. I want to think about how I use them, and what various approaches I’ve used in order to explore them. And yes, there’s more of them than just the Complicated Feelings About Babies one.

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