A few weeks ago, I posted about how I was reading a biography of Dr Seuss, and how inspiring I was finding it. After finishing this, I was pleased to discover the author of this book also wrote a bio of another of my cultural heroes, Jim Henson. And even more pleased to discover there was a copy at a local library. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been reading all about Jim Henson and the evolution of the Muppets.
Once again, this was an inspiring experience. As with Dr Seuss, I’ve always admired Jim Henson as someone with a unique creative vision, who was able to put his dreams into action for the benefit of many.
Reading those two books back-to-back, it was interesting to see some of the similarities and differences between these two great people.
As I said, both had an amazing creative capacity, as well as the ability to do more than just imagine. Both regarded themselves as artists and had to battle prejudice and the idea that what they did was simply “children’s entertainment.” Both had an amazingly positive attitude to the world and a real desire to spread joy. And both were also so completely taken up by their creative worlds that they had a tendency to neglect some of the people they were closest to.
But there were also some significant differences. While Dr Seuss did have a brief detour into movie making and also collaborated on some television specials, he largely stuck to the medium of books, and also to his simple style of rhyming stories. Jim Henson, on the other hand, was always looking for new media to conquer, and for more intricate and complex ways to tell his stories. Over the years, he built up a large and increasingly ungainly organisation, and towards the end of his life, was spending as much (if not more) time managing this than working on his creative ideas. And I suppose another significant difference is that Jim Henson died tragically young, with many projects still in the pipeline.
So what did I take from this reading. I guess the first thing was some kind of validation about the value of what I’m doing. I’m a long (long long) way from being as successful as either of them, but I see myself as working in the same tradition. Whether I end up making a career out of my writing or not, what I’m doing is inherently worthwhile.
I suppose one other key message to me was the value of simplicity. I think I’d rather be a Dr Seuss, keeping my life (and my stories) simple, rather than a Jim Henson creating a large and complex empire and losing touch with the reasons I wanted to be a storyteller in the first place.
Bot other than that, the main thing I take is the joy I (and so many others) have gained from both of these great artists. A joy I’d love nothing better than continuing to spread.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as