Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Today's Question

So the question is, Who are you when you write? This question has subsets such as Who are you writing to/at? What is the source of fun achieved when you become the person you become when you write? Do you think you would be more or less effective if you were someone else when you write? Is writing for money preventing you from being who it would be better for you to be when you write? And of course the trick question, Are you writing for money or for a living?

It's important for you to understand that you have to be able to "get" to the person you are when you write in order to give your writing self the maximum opportunity for growth. You have to get there without defensiveness or explanation, which is to say it is not only all right to be an angry person when you write, it may become necessary for you to be angry when you write? Or--dare I use the word?--sentimental. Or cynical. Or amused.

Try deciding the frame of mind of the writer of the next thing you find yourself enjoying, getting caught up in, when you read. The reading sample may be fiction or nonfiction; no matter so long as you feel a response to it.

Next question: What do you hope people will experience when reading your work? (Your answer to your own question is An audacious sense of being entertained , followed by the sense that this is leading them somewhere beyond entertainment.) This hope of yours should be followed with a concern on your part that you are not becoming pedantic or lecturing.

Now you may be ready for a zinger of a question: Are you so concerned about wanting to get things right that you let style trump execution? Do you polish the original you out of your text for fear that your text may not be crystalline or whatever else the hell you want your text to be?

Story may be enhanced by style--I mean, look at what Joyce does with "The Dead" and what Flaubert does with "A Simple Soul." If those don't get you, look what D. H. Lawrence does with "The Rocking Horse Winner." So you're going to let those three admittedly splendid stories keep you from finishing yours for fear that you could never hope to match them? Where's the risk? Where's the commitment? Go ahead, be a sport: Cut loose. Care about what you're doing and do the caring in a way that defines you. Truth is, you will never get it as good as you want it, a fact that should humble but not discourage. Remember the injunction of Beckett. Fail again. Next time fail better.

How old were you when you first got an idea for a story that was so daunting, you thought it was completely beyond reach? (Maybe sixteen.)

What happened to the story? (Never got written.)

What happened to the stuff you thought you could handle? (It got written)

Where is it now? (I think some of it is in the garage. Or maybe the water tower in the back yard.)

How do you approach stuff like that now? (Pleased as hell to be off on something new.)

Where will it all end? (So long as it doesn't end up in the garage or water tower, it doesn't matter.)


Anonymous said...

Well, you did ask.

Who am I when I write? My most insightful self. (not to say I am insightful--just that I'm as insightful as I can ever hope to be)

Other questions--I'm writing to the girl I was when I needed stories. I don't think I could be anyone else when I write. Would I know? I don't get paid for writing, so I don't know if pay would change anything. Probably. Money does that.

What do I hope people will experience when reading my work? What you said--entertainment and beyond.

For the zinger question--I don't know. I hope not.

The rest of the questions--you seem to already know the answers. Yes.

lowenkopf said...

You make me glad I asked.

z said...

Shelly, I've resigned from blogging, but yours is a blog I will always read, and you have my email address. Always something provocative to learn here. I narrate in layers, characters narrating stories to characters, unreliable narrators telling their tale to me, my own voice usually invisible. Blogging I narrated to other bloggers. After a year, that just got overwhelming and distracting.

Wild Iris said...

Who am I when I write? Well that depends on the type of writing and what it's being written for. Mainly I write to myself or for myself,and the rest be damned. At other times I become a bastard of the world, an outsider simply observing everyone else that dwells within it, and I record my observations for posterity... whatever the hell posterity may need it for.