Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tell a story to save your sanity

Writers will give you a lot of reasons why they "do it"; and, no, I'm not talking about "it" but "it", OK?

Speaking from experience, and as somebody who is considerably more aware of his own motivations, including the 'real' ones, than most people (no false modesty here!), I can assure you that the vast majority of those reasons qualify as 'reationalizations' and quite a lot of them are simply bogus. Almost all the reasons supplied though suffer from incompleteness, if only because people just don't know all the reasons that drive them to do whatever shit they're doing. Period.

In the spirit of disclosure then, I'm going to add another reason to the stack I've already unearthed for my addicion to story-telling: because it's saving my sanity.

Seriously! I have a terminal dependency on making up stories. Apart from allowing me to interact (sort of) with a whole bunch of interesting characters, they also let me imagine things that aren't real, but which are like I maybe would like things to be. They also, rather importantly, let me blow off steam about the lunacies of the world and its denizens.

Like, right now, I'm positively itching to rant and rave on about religioids and other idiots who think that they have some natural 'right' not to have their precious beliefs insulted and even ridiculed. I managed to scratch scratch the itch because I happened to have arrived at a conversation where I could let fly through the mouth of one of my characters. Much better putting it in the first draft, rather than wasting time putting it into a blog that'll piss everybody off.

Maybe it'll stay in there, or maybe it won't. That'll be up to my mood at re-write/edit time. But for right now I've written it out of my system, thus contributing to lowering my mental and physical blood-pressure. All good.

All good.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Hurl words into this darkness"

"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all." Richard Wright

I wish more writers felt that way about their craft. More storytellers in general; be they writers, film-makers; comic-book creators; actors (for they're storytellers, too); visual artists; and so on.

They do exist, of course, and some of them even qualify as 'famous'. When you read their work you get the sense that they do have what's commonly labeled as "something to say"; something significant that does indeed have to do with the "hunger for life" and the wonder of being alive. And you even hear them calling, like (to use a metaphor from the I Ching) "A crane calling in the shade. [Its young answers it.]", or maybe shouting—and nowadays it's likely that anybody shouting in the right places will find an echo in the vast spaces of the cyberverse; though it may turn out to be an echo produced by a smattering of lunatics. But who said that all echoes are created the same?

Wright was talking about 'words', and it is true enough: for tellers of stories, words are the tool of choice, if for no other reason but that words are the vehicles for propositional statements. Actions can only go so far, because they are proposition-less, though they may indicate propositions and may be interpreted as being 'statements'.

Interesting thing that: we need the words to make the propositions, but the words usually are about actions of some kind, though said actions in turn may contain the utterance of words, who in turn may refer to actions who in turn... You see where this is going.

The important thing here is that for a story to be told, words and actions are interlinked and interdependent. The telling of the story itself is an action to begin with, so I suppose in this chicken-egg story that's the egg. Or is it the chicken, since the storytellers had to have narrative first, running around in their heads so that the action of telling the story followed?

Back to words hurled into the darkness. It would be nice to think that most storytellers are motivated by an urge not dissimilar to that expressed by Wright. Alas, realism forces me to acknowledge otherwise. Still, maybe not everyone can be driven by such lofty motivators. For some of us it must be enough to be prompted by an inexplicable desire and need to "just do it". It's usually called a 'passion', and often taken to be a justification for the kind of narcissistic 'self'-realization that's been in fashion for some time now; in one form or another it's been around for a long time, but at the movement it appears to be reaching a peak of some kind.

I know I am driven by a 'passion', but I still haven't quite sorted out in my mind what that actually is! It's just one of those words that people use—and often those people are very intelligent, though they never appear to have the need to actually dig deeper into the word and find out where it is grounded. But what it actually represents, described, 'means'...

Being a good General Semanticist—well, my own variation upon the theme, since I always seem to find flaws in any system of thought, even the most cogent ones—I think I may have found my personal grounding of 'passion', in this is instance the one having to do with storytelling, that allows me to define at least one aspect of its meaning, and it is this: without it I am not complete. Something important and significant would be missing.

Whatever that is exactly, who knows? And ultimately, does it matter?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Heart of a Man

"If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads." Fran├žois Mauriac

Amen, my sisters and brothers!

Oddly enough I've been thinking of pruning down our collection of books to those that I, or my better half, are likely to re-read. And maybe our collection of DVDs (and P2P stuff) to those movies and TV series we'd re-watch (like The Unit, which is definitely on that list).

BTW, I know what (fiction) I re-read: Vance, Heinlein, Perry, Hiaasen, FABLES.

Can't think of anything more for a desert island. Plus I read my own stuff, of course, but this is usually done for proofing, though every now and then I like to revisit my characters just for the heck of it. The guilty privileges of an author: looking into his own soul, if you will.

Oddly enough there isn't much non-fiction in the re-read list, and the few included are Vance and Heinlein bios, and of course Alan Harrington's 'The Immortalist'.

So, that's some 'heart of a man' for you!