Yohannon (yohannon) wrote,
Yohannon
yohannon

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Thank You, Toria...

She and I chatted the other night about writing. Writers are NOT normal people, period...we think differently. Before I get attacked for being an elitist asshole, not that I said DIFFERENT...not necessarily better. In fact, the argument can be made that writers, particularly good ones, are tortured souls who sometimes only barely maintain a sense of functionality in the "real world", with a tenuous grip on the very reality we try to explore.

That's the catch...no matter how far afield our imaginings can become, writing can never be accessible unless it relates to themes people can relate to. That's why avanté guard attempts can fail so horribly: If you succeed at completely disconnecting from reality, it becomes meaningless noise. Yet, inject a thread of the human condition, and you get "Being John Malkovich", or most of Laurie Anderson's work. Yeah, I know a lot of people would disagree with me on those examples...but the point is, there's someone out here that can see the relevance, and thus dare to say "Wow, I really understood what they are doing there".

Anyway, back to Toria. Writers communicate in interesting ways...since you don't have to explain what it's like to be in the mind of a writer, you can complain about (to paraphrase something she actually said) your goddamn protagonist wanting to settle down and have children halfway through the story arc. Richard Bach tries to explain in in his preface to "Illusions", when he describes how an idea can pick you up by the neck (gently, but firmly), forcing you to write it all down. Characters are like that as well.

What started this line of conversation was my assertion that I wanted to gather together a bunch of us (read: writers), go off for a month somewhere with no net access or other distractions (music is ok, of course!) and WRITE. She disagreed, saying she didn't think anyone who wasn't already able to work on something, as in consistently and daily producing something that could be considered an actual book, was unlikely to do so under the conditions I had set forth.

Oh, she could see my point...writers can talk with other writers. Not writer wannabees (who can set the teeth of a saint on edge), but actual writers. The ones who were born to the talent. A writer can pretend to be a hack, dumb down the quality of the work to feed himself. A hack will NEVER rise to the level of actual WRITING, except by accident. Look at Defoe. Name any book OTHER than "Robinson Crusoe". Go on, I can wait. No fair using "Google" to look them up.

I sometimes can give the impression of being completely intractable when it comes to my opinions. I know I can present them so forcefully that I frighten off any dissent, rendering opposing viewpoints stillborn. This is unfortunate, because, just as in this case, my mind CAN be changed. The problem is that I won't express an opinion unless I really believe it to be true, and therefore you have to be able to convince me, without trying to force me to change my mind, that perhaps my thinking needs adjustment.

I can blame a lot of things for that: My step father for being such a tyrant, my experiences in public education where I often spotted inconsistencies and had the temerity to point them out, and especially my formative religious experience as an irish-catholic -- not exactly a spiritual path for the restless mind.

But blame is bull. Ultimately it's up to me to decide that I must try to allow some input, express myself with greater grace toward others. Not that a good rant doesn't have it's place -- exactly the opposite. However, I need to integrate the needs of others into my writing in ways that shows respect for their boundaries. A good writer can be utterly honest and straightforward. A great one can bend the truth just enough to protect those that he loves, while still being able to tell the story that carries the message to the "real world" he's trying to contact. Surprisingly, this also gives him a far greater freedom. Who was it that once said "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story"?

I'm going to change the names to protect the innocent, though I reserve the right to keep some for special occasions. I fully intend to wrack my writers wrath against a good George (my grandfather) while vilifying another (a certain cretin who should NEVER show his face in the bay area again), probably in the same book (just to confuse everyone. Why not have a good guy and a bad guy with the same name? I think I can make a strong case for it exemplifying the duality of...er, but I'm digressing again).

So here I am, trying to find my voice again. I don't know if this is why I've felt so thick the last few days, overwhelmed by sheer inertia. What I do know is that, even though this room is FREEZING (it gets damn cold in those darn mountains!) this is the best I've felt all week.

Toria pointed out that a lot of people don't write the books that they have in them for fear it won't be THE great novel. Of course, art can never be perfection, for humanity is imperfect, and (as I pointed out earlier) the humanity is what makes art good, great...or sterile. Yet all writers, and the parent class "artist" are almost always screaming perfectionists alternately arrogant and pitiful in their self loathing and doubt.

Ultimately the difference between the dilettantes and the "real" writers is that writers HAVE to write, or they suffocate. Lack of oxygen makes anyone sleepy and lumpish...I'm starting to suspect that my self-denial as far as actually getting those thoughts down is having exactly the same effect.

The problem is not in finding my muse...it's in letting the poor girl do her job.
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