Where All the Voodoo Children are Born

cre·ate verb \krē-ˈāt, ˈkrē-ˌ\

Definition of CREATE

transitive verb

1 : to bring into existence <God created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1(Authorized Version)>

I wish I was never taught that creation is essentially pulling things out of ether. It was specifically a part of my religious upbringing, but I probably would’ve been organically trained into this mindset anyhow. I should think of this as more American culture’s fault, or maybe I can straight up blame Mr. Webster himself.

But, then again, maybe I should just stop looking for someone to blame. The religious don’t necessarily need to discard their Father, but I do think the artist should be looking to different channels for artistic parenting; human beings can’t conceive from nothing. We deconstruct, abstract, and make clay of what we understand and experience, then we mush stuff up, recompile, craft, and mold–we reconstruct.

It might be stronger and, perhaps, more farsighted to think of creativity as transformation.

You gotta love Gypsy Eyes in order to write about them.

Those “crazy noises” during Jimi Hendrix’s famous rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner are fighter jets buzzing overhead and planes dropping bombs. A little research and voilà: he spent a few years in the military–that solo, that interpretation of the song came from somewhere (That also might reveal what got people so riled up about it back in the day: “National Anthem or War Song?”). Absorbing something and then transforming its presentation, ordering, and perspective doesn’t just make music fantastic: it’s the core of what the idea of music is.

The pace of a beat–or the perceived pace of a beat–is relative to the human experience, human footsteps, the human concept of speed (Nobody can run as fast as DragonForce, right? And it’s rare we ever do anything as slow as Sigur Rós). This is metaphor.

There’s no New Crobuzon without planet Earth.

Dostoyevsky wrote of Russian politics, Hemingway wrote of bullfighting and war, China Mièville writes with inspiration from his days of Dungeons and Dragons–it’s important to be honest and open to our sources of energy. To embrace, absorb, and understand them.

Given that, writer’s block could be considered a sort of false disease; it might have a great deal to do with a failing understanding of what it means to be creative. That classic image of a writer curled over his desk in isolation: “you toil and toil yet can not produce! Oh woe is me!”–you can’t put out if you don’t take in, and you can’t take in if you only put out. You need to go outside.

Hemingway was a journalist before becoming a novelist. Dostoyevsky ran in political circles and even went to prison for it. China Mièville is never shy about his sources of inspiration. His favorite pastimes come up in nearly every interview, and the man actually ran for parliament.

Video games aren’t exempt from this either. Super Mario is the classic knight in shining armor story: Mario’s the knight, and Yoshi is his steed; he goes to fight the dragon Bowser and save the Princess Peach. This is Super Mario’s foundation, but, I mean, look at it. When you open yourself up to soak in just a little bit more, when you hold yourself back just a little bit less, that core foundation becomes something more: you get a game about a guy who walks on clouds and travels through pipes because you like manga and pass sewage systems on the way to work.

It takes absorbent and free minds to make flying via a raccoon tail seem unquestionable. It takes adventurers, it takes listeners, it takes people who aren’t going to question how they got there until they get there, people who only look back in order to figure out how to go forward. It takes creatives.

Redefining the galaxy.
Redefine the galaxy.

And all of the above, at least as far as I understand at this point, is the source of the Voodoo. It’s what we need to do to watch the sunrise from the bottom of the sea. And as long as I think like this, I never seem to become stuck, more like:

“I’m not quite yet where I want to be, but getting there is fantastic, and hey, here’s everything I’ve found along the way. There’s more coming, and it’s only going to get better. I hope everyone’s having a good time.”

The Dostoyevsky Genre


The best Dostoyevsky novels are hardly labyrinthine. Sure, the psychoanalysis-before-textbook-psychoanalysis existed is fantastic, deep, and complex—they’re high-concept books, but Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov seem to resonate with people for far simpler reasons. Those two books have his simplest core plots (despite the grand size of Karamazov), and the way the narratives plays out is really a great deal of “fun”. Everything else is simply crafted on top of this quality foundation. That’s the difference between a term paper on desperation versus a novel about it.

The core, the spine, the “focal-center” of both aforementioned stories is that they’re murder mysteries, whodunnits before whodunnits existed. Now, while I haven’t managed to reach a sufficient understanding of why Brothers Karamazov is so affecting (it’s truly just a 1,000+ page “the butler did it” story), I’m feeling somewhat confident in my assessment of Crime and Punishment, which kinda has the same model flipped on its head; C&P succeeds due to its excellent handling of a whodunnit where we know whodunnit.


In third-person omniscient (which I believe was a brand new idea at the time), we watch C&P’s hero, our murderer Raskolnikov, toil. We watch him deliberate. We watch him narrowly escape the desire to turn himself in over and over again.

Dosty doesn’t just craft the book well, but has selected an entire scenario and situation that lends itself to absolutely nothing but suspense beginning to end. Regardless of whatever insightful conversation may be going on, Raskolnikov’s hidden guilt can only bring us to our ending in a handful of ways: escape or admission.


While we do know whodunnit, we begin to realize we don’t fully know who he is, and during this time, we learn a lot more about our murderer by watching him struggle beneath pressure (as it’s hard to be anyone but your honest self when under so much stress—one of the reasons why conflict is integral in storytelling). His virtue in light of his guilt, his desperation bundled with his confusion: meaty storytelling delivered with a side of veggies.

This got skipped over in a lot of my lessons: The Conceptual McGuffin, the similarities between the cursed “genre fiction” and prestigious “literature”; we’re chasing the conceptual carrot of Raskolnikov’s release from his guilt.

The natural empathy of the novel is what’s used to create the push. Rasky’s misery is our dangling carrot, and Rasky’s misery is what Crime and Punishment “is”. A simple, effective, and still unique core.


I’ll always remember my experience with Crime and Punishment for the grand insight it gave me into the human mind, and for the things Dosty gets me to think about. I’ll also always see it like this: “I picked up this novel called Crime and Punishment. It was pretty cool. It gripped me beginning to end—a page-turning and fatiguing sort of gripping, but a page-turning one nonetheless. It was fun, which is often forgotten when attempting to craft something of ‘great worth and merit’.” This goes for all media, and all things I or anybody else creates. Art is best when it’s entertaining and engaging, but when pulling from the proper channels, it ends up that way by default.