"He Has the Most Punishing Left Imaginable"

pinterest // drakeshelm
I like things that make me think, that delve deeper than the average surface talk. People "dummy" things down too much for fear of scaring other people away.
I had only just got up, and already I was bone-tired.  I sat in a meagre panelling of sun on the couch and stared blankly at my fingernails: they were the only things to look at; I was far too tired to pick up The Nine Tailors, which sat beside me.  Was the polish really that bad?  It was chipped and shabby, but was it completely reprehensible, or could I leave off scrubbing it away for another day - or at least the morning?  I was so, so tired.  Was that a hair stuck on the ragged edge of a nail?  My eyes adjusted.  No, it was only one of the creases in my palm.  Weird-lines.  Weird-lines, I called them in my stories, after the Norse "fate," and the old belief (that I did not myself adhere to) that you could read your fortune in those etchings.  Perhaps people would not always follow that - perhaps people would not always be acquainted with the old use of "weird," but if they were worth their salt as readers they would not mind learning - and if they did mind, well, I wasn't writing for that sort of reader, anyway.

"The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past ages."
rené descartes

I had been meaning to address the above, introductory comment, which I got on my post She Was Not of His Folk, but I was having a little trouble solidifying my thoughts, and then I happened to chance upon a piece of published material which I thought did the author no justice and was quite juvenile.   I was angry, and since Rachel was unfortunately present to be ranted at, I lit into her (I think she deserves a halo) complaining that I do not expect the calibre of Tolkien, and E.R. Eddison, and some of the other Big Names from my library, but I push myself - I flog the best out of myself - and I fully expect other writers to do the same with their own geniuses.  I expect everything and more from myself, and I hold everyone else to the same standard.  I am the poster-child for quixotic, I know.  The varying developmental stages that people may be at in their writing aside, I am of the opinion that the writing genius suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  In my whirlwind way, I told Rachel that I am all an illusionist's pocket of tricks: light, colour, distraction - and then the punch.  If nothing else, I must know when to hit people in the right nerve, and I must know how to do it.  To me, writing is a physical, violent sport, and one cannot be afraid nor "dumb things down," or one's writing is ineffectually boxing at the air.

Perhaps the only aspect of my life in which I could conceivably be called brave is my writing - but even then I don't consciously think "I will be brave, and I will not think that perhaps this will drive people away" while I am writing, so even in that I cannot take much credit.  But even so, whether it is a choice of vice in a character, or the use of an archaic word that people may not be readily acquainted with, I come stiffened with a certain amount of hubris that assures me I know what I am doing, and a certain amount of impatient charity which also tells me that the reader can keep up.

"I quickly learned that reading is cumulative and proceeds by geometrical progression: each new reading builds upon whatever the reader has read before."
alberto manguel

In addition to expecting the world of myself, I don't pretend that I am the whole world to my reader.  I fully expect that he will be reading other works (no doubt better and more informed than my own), and that any passages in my works in which I am speaking in parts and portions and dark sayings will in these latter days be revealed in the light of someone else's literature.  I also have a candid appreciation for my own lack of intelligence: I don't know Latin, or Greek, I don't read lengthy passages of Norse mythology on a whim: everything I know, anyone else can find - if not, they are just lazy in the brain-pan, and I have no use for that.  I don't usually make people "think deeply" on purpose, as though I knew anything worth really sharing, but if people want to walk with me, I'm happy to have them along.  Meanwhile, I will always stay true to my craft, and think very little about the reader in the process.  The reader only gets underfoot at this stage, anyway.  He can have a slice of pie when it is done baking. Shoo.
It's best to remember that the reader, like an animal, can smell fear in the author.

6 ripostes:

  1. "The reader only gets underfoot at this stage, anyway. He can have a slice of pie when it is done baking. Shoo." I just have to say I love that. <3 I got so wrapped up in things regarding one of my stories I just had to start writing it for myself. I am a chronic worrier and always wondering if what people will think, think of me, if I am conveying what I am thinking properly, If I am making this as clear as I possibly can so they won't get the wrong idea from it, that it rather made me smile.

  2. A violent sport: Not everyone approaches writing as a violent sport, nor should they. There is more than one approach any art form. And there is more than one purpose for the work that we do. Aim for excellence and give it everything you've got, but be open for the different forms of expression. Some pieces feel beautiful and fun and have virtually no "thrust" at all, and yet they are not necessarily a waste.
    Dummied down: Yes, yes, and yes. I myself am guilty of this. After scaring away multiple penpals and multiple friends, I try to tread a little closer to the surface. But, oh, the joy when I find someone who stirs deeper thoughts!--someone who knows how to think and expects me to do the same! I want to be a person that inspires that in other people. Sometimes I think that people have not learned to think simply because everything IS so dummied down for them.
    The smell of fear: this is true and it will end up as a quote on my blog later this month if you don't mind. Writing is like art -- it is an expression of the author's feelings. If you approach a subject timidly, your writing will be stilted and awkward. Your writing is influenced not only by your subject but how you feel when you are writing about that subject.
    And, like Lilly, the quote near the end made me smile: "The reader only gets underfoot at this stage, anyway. He can have a slice of pie when it is done baking. Shoo." :)

  3. I am so glad, Jenny, that you are fearless with your writing. That is to be admired. :) I think too often fearless writing is equated with use of ugly language or uncomfortably sexual scenes - and that is quite the opposite. Society wants that, eats it up; being a fearless writer means writing what you know is truth, even, when the world will ridicule you for it, or simply ignore or misunderstand your work. Again: I admire that in you, and would strive to be a more dauntless myself. The sliver of fear slips in when I write something difficult or lesser known, but just like I choose to dress modestly to only attract the right sort of man, I aspire to write intelligently, so as to attract the right sort of reader. It's not altogether natural for me (and if that piece you've mentioned that was quite juvenile was mine, you know how close I am to being proficient at it!) but the struggle for a higher standard of literature has got to be worth something, yes?

    Wonderful post - I love that our writing community constantly struggles for improvement. :)

  4. HERE, HERE.
    I applaud this from the horizon and up. This is something that I really strive to do; write fearlessly.
    I pray I always will - and I know you do. It's been one of the larger reasons I admire your work. <3

  5. Lilly - I think it was Bree who wrote a post once on how to take critique, and I think one aspect of the post was on knowing when to go get critique. I'm a self-taught writer, and I spent years in the my youth simply writing, and with the exercise of writing over and over on countless different stories, I built up my skill. I am finally at a point in my "career" at which I feel my writing is actually worth publishing - and perhaps that is one of the biggest problems I have with amateur writers like myself. Too quickly we assume that, because we have written a story from beginning to end (which is oftentimes hard enough to do in its own right) we think we are ready to be published. This is almost never the case. One is only just beginning to hone the skills which make a publishable novel. One has to keep working.

    And one has to know when to show one's writing off. I don't show people my first drafts expecting a critique - if I show anyone that level of raw creativity, I'm only asking for encouragement to keep going. Then I polish the first draft, then I show it to others. And this may not be the formula for others: it may take more polishes before it is ready to be presented, it may be that the first draft is good enough to show at the outset. But once you know your own strengths, you will be far less worried about what others will think. You'll be confident in yourself.

    Bound & Freed - "Aim for excellence and give everything you've got" is what I am saying when I speak of the grilling violence of writing. The reader may have no notion that I have wrestled and run with a piece of writing: it may be that the piece he is reading is one of the most peaceful passages in my story. But I fought for it, like an Olympian athlete, and that is what I mean when I say I push myself, and I expect other writers to push themselves as well. I have no objection if writers like to play around and essentially doodle with words: we are all entitled to use our beautiful languages to express ourselves. That is how I started! But if a human being takes it into his head that he is going to write a story and then foist it upon the world, I expect him to push himself beyond his own limits to make it worth reading.

    There will always be people who either do not understand (often, sadly, though the fault of our own miscommunication) or resent being made to "think deeply," because "thinking deeply" means pushing the limits of one's safe paradigm, exploring their repercussions, ditching some, constructing new ones. It means mental labour, it means being uncomfortable, and there will always be people who recoil from that - to their own hurt! If possible, pity those people. Their minds must stagnate without air. But if you want to be a person who inspires the strengthening of other people's minds, you must make your own mind strong enough to unequivocally carry the burden of its own beliefs. If one is too shy of scaring others, one will never inspire courage.

    Bree - I have absolutely no idea who the author of that piece of writing is, not from Adam, so you have nothing to fear. XD And, honestly, I feel a little bad that you want to admire me for this "fearlessness," because I don't usually think about Other People and their Reactions when I write. It just doesn't occur to me, so it isn't as if I am vaulting a monumental terror here. While the scope of my intellect is but a fraction of his own, I have that same myopic vision applied to my craft as Sherlock Holmes applied to his: and I have that same delight in and impatience with people when they either do well at writing or say they take it seriously and obviously don't.

    Mirriam - I have always been under the impression that you do write fearlessly, so you seem to be succeeding. ^_^

  6. Thank you so much <3 I think I just write what I want to write.
    If that's fearless, I am it.
    If not, I am not.
    You are.
    Rugs from me to you.