First, a confession: I quite like the music of Genesis. No, wait, come back. This is solely by way of explaining the fact that I was watching a documentary on them just now, during which they made some interesting points about the creative process.
One set of themes that stuck with me was on the nature of creative identity. They talked about a few things relating to it, starting with the idea of having a band where practically all the members had solo projects. The idea that an artist in whatever field can have multiple outlets is an important one I think for writers, because there are things that one ‘identity’ won’t let you do that might be approachable by finding other avenues.
There was also some stuff on the notion of working in a group for the writing process, which is perhaps less applicable to a non-musical environment. Yet as a ghost-writer, I’ve done the whole thing of working with someone, and it is an interesting process, because there is that guidance and re-shaping, and having to strive to make the whole more than the sum of its parts. The time when it goes wrong is where the project is limited to just what I do, or more likely just what they want, because then there isn’t that transformation. If any of you have ever collaborated on pieces, you might understand that feeling.
One notion that struck me as interesting though was the idea that they had done a lot of different music, and that the band name was just a catch all for it. I can see the point, yet in some ways I would argue against it. Genesis did many different things, but to me, it always sounded like Genesis doing it, just as Joe Satriani’s many different album feelings still sound like Joe Satriani. I think in some ways that’s even more interesting, because there’s that tension between the urge to do new things and the kind of continuity of voice that we’re all taught to seek out as writers.
In fact, I think that genre or style hopping may actually help with the development of a consistent voice, because it forces us to see which bits are just genre conventions, and which bits are genuinely us. You see, watching odd documentaries at unhealthy hours is good for you.