Constraining Chance: Georges Perec and the Oulipo (Avant-Garde & Modernism Studies)
By Alison James
Northwestern University Press
I have a critical attitude towards “chance,” and the role it might play in one’s writing process. My skepticism towards it stems from some of the creativity theories out there that try to downplay the role of the artist’s cognition, deliberation, and consciousness in the creative process. In the field of creative writing, much has been said about the advantage of spontaneity or automatism, and how overthinking can ruin an original idea. One example is the “flow”-based rhetoric that circulates in many writing guidebooks, which advocate abandoning conscious control over the writing process. Since I don’t believe in such a theory (partly because of my own writing and teaching experience, and partly because of the research that I have done in this regard), I have held an anti-chance attitude towards writing, meaning I believe in being in full control of the writing process or being fully conscious and deliberate in the decision making process. That’s the recipe for original and quality writing as far as I am concerned.