Sunday, September 15, 2013
I know who you are, Ms. Rosetti...
Heather’s recent post had me wondering, once again, how to answer the question: why do writers write, despite the struggle to put it all down into words in a uniquely ‘me’ way, while warding off –or is it hoodwinking-- self-doubt that knows just where to stab, and when. And then we weather the endless revisions largely based on the firm advice from our peers as the critical eye, either theirs or ours, is always upon us every step of the way…that wiser and clever serial killer, self-doubt, still stalking every bloodied page that we turn. I feel Heather's pain. We all do, I would hope.
Actually, Heather’s question is the same ageless question of why an artist does art. Pick your favorite philosophical reasoning, for it’s all been said before, divvied up across the human horizon side by side like books on a shelf: to teach, to transcend, to evolve, to connect, to interpret, to express, to create, to kill, to market…to make art for art’s sake. In reality, it might be a mix of reasons. By the time my WWII piece has been revised a half dozen times, I will have created a unique story that transcends a little known sub-world in Berlin...and I will publish, and then I will market. I am still an artist, because I scrutinize: I will not publish junk. If I do not publish, it is because my art is not satisfying to me.
What propels us writers to become authors? In a previous post or two, I have eluded to fear as one particular driving force that keeps me writing. I don’t fear not having ideas; I fear not getting them down on paper – and in enough time before some other author thinks of it first or before I see a similar story conjured in script and hitting the silver screen. By the way, I didn't want to get into the melee of "professional writer versus hobbyist", but I must say that that is what I think separates us: Time. As a passionate writer and professional artist, I feel like I am fighting against time, while it seems a hobbyist does their art irrespective of time. I might be wrong on this, but if you read Keith’s comment on Heather’s post, you will see how time is a very important ingredient in the creation of our art. A hobbyist loves the art of writing as much as any professional writer loves the art. The difference may be just a factor of time and how we use it. You see? No blood need be drawn.
Back to fear.
I also fear ‘ordinary’, as in not having the talent to create a unique story or character. Conventional writing is fine if what is written is a new fact or conveys an interesting point of view to an old fact. Conventional writing is not art within itself, however; it’s more like a medium. I’ve got to say this, and I have always felt this way: If my writing style is not beyond conventional, or my plot or characters are typical, then I will cease to write. I will move on to something else. I will gravitate towards my science, perhaps, and focus the rest of my life solely on discovery or technical advice through my worn yet sweat-resilient Purdue science degree. I do what I say; I am a pretty damn good scientist. Most of my friends and family know me, The Scientist, and will remember me, The Scientist.
That's fine, but I want to be known as a writer. I want to be remembered as an artist.
I want to write a fascinating story that only I created. And then I want to do it all over again. I want to leave something behind for others to read and, perhaps, wonder who I was and how I came up with such an odd, if clever, story. What were his demons, I'd want them to ask. What drove this man to write such an extraordinary piece, and...?
Did he write more?
"To-morrow," said they, strong with hope,
And dwelt upon the pleasant way:
"To-morrow," cried they, one and all,
While no one spoke of yesterday.
Their life stood full at blessed noon;
I, only I, had passed away:
"To-morrow and to-day," they cried;
I was of yesterday.”
Unless, that is, I have written a fine book, uniquely mine…uniquely me.