The Purloined Letter: how Edgar Allen Poe can help you with your creativity

We’re pretty advanced these days.

Particularly our thought processes.

The things we worry about are a lot more complex than they were many years ago.

These complex worries can often mean that, when it comes to facing a problem, we instantly look for a complex solution.

Even when the situation doesn’t really call for it.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post – often creativity is a matter of simplicity, not complexity.

In 1845 Edgar Allen Poe wrote a tale called ‘The Purloined Letter’. It was the third in a trilogy of crime short stories about a fictional detective named C. Augustine Dupin.

In the story a letter is stolen from a seemingly secure room and used to blackmail a socialite. The police are desperately trying to find the letter and work out how it was stolen.

They spend their time searching high and low for an elaborate hiding place.

The amateur detective in the story, Dupin, realises that the letter is being hidden openly in the thief’s home and promptly finds it – much to the dismay of the police force. 

It was right in front of their noses. But they were too busy looking for the spectacular.

See? 

The answer to the problem was the simples. But everyone else was overcomplicating things and looking for something spectacular.

In creativity it can often be the same.

If you’re selling a product you can spend months searching for an incredibly clever slogan. But in reality, to sell it all you need to do is tell the customer the obvious.

e.g. – this lightbulb is twice as bright as your current bulb, and energy efficient too.

Simple, on the nose and honest. Telling the customer about two things that they want from a lightbulb.

It can also be the same with a novel. Big, convoluted paragraphs can often be simplified to appeal to the reader.

So, next time you’re tackling a problem or next time you’re being creative, have a think about Poe and ‘The Purloined Letter’. Can he help you?

(Photo credit: the famous people)

 

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