Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Is Real and What Is Really Real: Two Degrees of Separation

You are for all practical purposes a fan of reality.  Were it not for reality, you wouldn’t be on board the planet to be writing about this.  For some considerable time, you believed that the mere recording of it would get you where you wanted to be in relationship to your writing.  Of course at one time, you had thoughts of journalism—until you made a number of significant discoveries about inventing things.

As a result of your earlier belief, your studies focused on achieving a vocabulary of terms and phrases best suited to recording reality as it came out of the gigantic mills of humanity and of the evolving changes taking place in the planet we inhabit.

Why wasn’t this working?  More to the point, why weren’t you noticing that it didn’t work?

“It,” you approach, wasn’t working because it had only one dimension.  Flat things don’t work for you as well as textured things do,  “It” wasn’t working because it was not interesting; in fact, it was boring. Boring to write, thus for a certainty, boring to read.

To your credit, the message was not long in reaching you; you had to filter reality through whichever characters you brought onto the page.  You were responsible for giving reality a twist, an apparent agenda or purpose.  It was up to you to give reality the thing it does not have—a personality.  Thus equipped with knowledge you were lacking before, you were able to confront another of the great mysteries and conundrums reality placed before you, right after it hit you in the kishkes with puberty and the serious desire to record things—events, observations about reality—on some form of page.

The discovered mystery and the attempts to solve it had to do with the spread between the point A of reality and the point B of creativity.  How many times did you have to teach courses called “Creative Writing” before your students were able to demonstrate to you how that vibrant gap between reality and creativity work?  Appearances.  Ambiguity.  Subtext.  You may never discern the number of course you had to teach before it became clear to you that you cannot describe reality with any expectation of a satisfactory result.  It is all in the evocation.  So the cat has fled the bag.  Reality may be intimated, inferred, suggested, even implied.  This is why it caused Flaubert such pains.  He saw the need to suggest the reality he was trying to portray.  All these approaches give reality the élan vital it lacks in—tee hee—reality.  The moment you describe reality, it falls flat on its asterisk.

Ways to infer, intimate, and suggest reality include the deft use of detail as a sign post, or a particular character inveighing against some facet of reality in a manner that reveals some secret about her (there is subtext again), or an indication of some great cosmic anomaly.  All of us who purport to write are in fact storehouses of these items.  They appear to us as secrets in our dreams, as misspelled words in the love letters we write; they are in their way cosmic spoonerisms, great, humorous anomalies we know actually exist but which we have been culturally led to shun as great moments of shame that must be concealed.

As writers, we pick the details that expose the concealment.  When they are funny, which is to say when they reveal our intense secrecy, we laugh at them.  When they are sad, we try not to cry because crying is often seen either as a weakness or as a stratagem to call attention away from the truth.

What truth?  What is the truth?


That is what we write to discover, each in his or her own vision.


Storm Dweller said...

You and Squirrel are on similar planes of reality today. I'm just happy to be along for the ride.

Anonymous said...

Ah. "the spread between the 'point A of reality' and the 'point B of creativity'. Indeed! Could it be that that very spread is what makes a work of art? The tension between story -romance - plot, if you will, and reality-deconstruction-post-modernimsm - well, hasn't it been with us always? Is the tension a wide playground or a razor's edge? Thanks, Shelly, for yet again elucidating something I've been thinking about....
Karen D