Posted by & filed under Writing and Writers. 4 comments

There’s a rift between creator and consumer.  Artist and observer.  Writer and reader.

And it might be irreparable.

In Part I, I talked about how looking for meaning can destroy the experience of a work of art.  As Gandalf says, “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.” Hopefully people aren’t ripping out the pages of their books, or slashing canvases in galleries, but there are other ways to break a a work of art.  When analyzing gets in the way of experiencing the work, then something is broken.  When “What are we supposed to see?”  gets in the way of seeing, then something is broken.

But people create to express.

They express their history.  Their culture.  Their personality.  Gender.  Geography.  Wealth.  Poverty.  Prejudice.  Injury.  Injustice.  Probably hundreds of other things I haven’t thought of because I don’t analyze.  Stories are full of these expressions.  They are full of messages.

Just like that painting that looks like a three year old did it.  Or the sculpture that looks like the night janitor dropped the contents of his pockets.  Or the Last Supper.  Or the Mona Lisa.

So there’s a disconnect.  A writer writes.  But what the reader reads may be something completely different.  A writer puts all of their experience and passion and secrets and hopes and dreams and beliefs and biases onto the page.  A reader goes to sleep with a nice story in their head.  Maybe no more than that.  Does it all go to waste?

“I don’t get it.”

I’ve said it in my literature class, and I’ve thought it to myself when reading alone.  But I move on.  Because I love stories, because I read for enjoyment, because I can look at a painting that is beautiful and enjoy it even if I don’t understand why, I don’t get hung up on “I don’t get it.”

But does it all go to waste?

Maybe not.

Reading is passive. A story is a discrete unit of information meant to be consumed, not altered, not expanded, not evolved.  Someone writes it.  You read it.  Maybe if you’re lucky you have a book club to discuss it with.  But that’s about it.  There’s no interaction.  The reader takes no part in the story creation.  Like standing in an art gallery trying to dissect the meaning of lines and shadows, sitting at home puzzling over every word is passive.

And that is the problem: experiencing art often is passive.  But it doesn’t have to be.

The internet gives voice to the reader.  We have blogs.  We have forums.  We have fan fiction.  All this allows readers to explore stories and interact with them.  The internet is more than a congregating place for fans.  It’s where stories come to grow.  Where the reader takes an active part in the story world.

A story is no longer a discrete unite of information, but a living and evolving piece of culture.

Sometimes I hear people in (not just) literary circles decry the amount of time “kids these days” spend online instead of in books.  I say the literary community has blossomed online.  I hear them say that computers will be the death of books.  I say that computers are books.  They are books that come with the ability to communicate with people on the other end, to interact with a story world, and to make that world grow by community.

And then meaning can thrive.

Then when you say,

“I don’t get it,”

someone, somewhere will say,

“I do.”

Posted by & filed under Writing and Writers. 6 comments

“I don’t get it.”

It’s the mantra of the week here.  The gallery on campus had an opening and it was the place to be–mostly for the free wine and cheese, but looking at the pictures helped us blend in.  Unfortunately, my friends don’t get modern art.  And this was the modernest.

Today I wanted to write about money.  Maybe it’s the recession, maybe it’s just human nature, but everyone’s talking about it now.  So I wanted to talk about what writing is really about.

I’ll get to that.  Later.

I realized when I sat down to blog about The Real Meaning of Writing, that I didn’t have a clue what that was.  So here’s the question I have to answer first:

Does there have to be a Real Meaning?

I don’t get art.  Modern.  Traditional.  Realistic.  Abstract.  I don’t get it.  Maybe I don’t have analytical mind it takes to look at a picture and get meaning out of it.  Maybe I don’t have the right education.  Maybe I don’t have the patience.

But I still like looking at pictures.  I like to look at the shapes that I didn’t think to make or the colors that I didn’t think to put together or the  colors I didn’t know existed, or places I couldn’t locate on a map.  I like looking at faces and clothes and landscapes and bowls of fruit.  I like looking at splotches and splatters and floating dots and lines and shapes I didn’t learn in geometry and ones I did.

Some stories have a clear message.  Don’t make fun of outsiders.  Don’t trust leprechauns.  Don’t sell your soul to the devil.  Be honest.  Dare.  Believe.  Love.  All of my favorite books have messages, in fact.  But they’re not my favorites for that.  There are other reasons.

Adventure.  Excitement.  Beauty.  Words I never heard.  Words I never heard together.  Sentences I’ve never read, and some I have.  Descriptions of things I never thought to describe, or things I never thought to create. People I wish I knew.  Places I wish existed.  Villains I’m glad don’t, and monsters the same.

But somebody thought to put those things and people and monsters on a page.  And that’s fun.  And beautiful.  And adventurous.  And exciting.

My friends look at pictures and wonder what they’re supposed to see.  Or feel.  Or understand.  I look at pictures and… well, I look at pictures. And I enjoy them a lot more than my friends.

And I think there’s meaning in that.  Even if it’s not what I’m supposed to see.  Or feel.  Or understand.

But I wonder vaguely, as I’m enjoying the pictures and the stories, does there have to be a Purpose in art? Does a story have to be a Story?  Does there have to be a Real Meaning of Writing? And if so, would I trade my naive enjoyment to look for it?  Would you?

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I used to meditate.

I was angry.  All the time. Call it teen rebellion, call it my meta phase, call it emo, whatev.  I needed balance. And I found it.

For almost ten years I had a mind-over-matter, control-your-own-destiny mindset.  I meditated. I wrote positive affirmations. I did yoga. I did tai chi.  And I believed.  The stress of school, work, family life, and social drama rolled off me.  I was unassailable.

I’m not a doctor and I’m not a believer anymore but I say it did something.  Call it the placebo effect or power of suggestion or thetan power.  It’s may not cure AIDS or make money materialize out of thin air, but it made me feel better.  And feeling better made life better.

I don’t meditate anymore.  My yoga mat’s collecting dust in the corner.  Idle daydreams are the closest I’ve come to positive affirmations in years.  Stress doesn’t roll off me and feeling better isn’t as easy as taking a few deep breaths anymore.

But I don’t want to feel better.

It’s the writing.  For some, it’s theraputic.  Not for me.

Writing is hard.  It’s lonely.  Often it’s fruitless.  It challenges your priorities.  And it syncopates your social life–if you have one. And that’s just from the mechanics of cranking out the pages.

The act of creating stories–like creating anything–poses its own set of problems.  Everything that appears on the page appears first in your mind.  Any fear or anger or frustration or stress that’s dished out on the characters goes through me first.  What makes it onto the page is only the tip of the iceberg, and by the time the editing process is done, it’s only a tiny shaving of the monster that started it.

To be blunt, it sucks.  But I like it that way.

Stories need tension.  They need stress.  If I avoid stress and tension, then I can’t write about it.  If I shut everything out, then I can’t write about anything.  Good stories replicate the human experience, and the human experience is not always pleasant.

I want to write good stories.

Maybe it would be easier to chant “I am going to write good stories,” a hundred times every day.  But in the time it takes me to say “I am going to writer good stories” a hundred times, I could write a page of a good story.  In the space it takes me to write “I am going to write good stories” I could write something like “A mage forgot his magic in a jar,”or “I got lost on his way to the moon,” or something else more interesting than “I am going to write good stories.”

So I take the stress and the frustration and the anger because when they disappear the stories disappear.

The miserable writer is a stereotype.  But is there a reason for that?

How do you write?


Posted by & filed under Book Club, Reading and Reviewing. 2 comments

Last week I discovered the indie writer, Romi Moondi and this week since I finished Veins I’m reading 2 of her books:  Not Love Poems for Real Life  and  The Book of Awful

Not too far into these, but I’m liking them already. . .

Ongoing Reading

I’m still massively obsessed with We are become pals by Joey Comeau & Jess Fink.  Seriously, just go read it.

Recent reading


by Drew

“For my whole life I’ve had 0 friends or 1 friend, which sounds sad. But in binary, that’s all of them.”

Cheapass though I am, I shelled out a few bucks for this novel by the guy behind Toothpaste for Dinner webcomic. This is, after all, cheap ass fiction, not free ass fiction. And seriously, from the guy who does things like this:

and similar, how could I not give his novel a try?

I’m almost done and will put up a review post haste when I have finished which should be soon because this book is great. I want to say it’s hilarious, but it’s so dark and tragic that I can’t really say that without being a terrible human being. So basically it’s dark and tragic and kinda funny. It’s also $4.99 But there’s a free sample, and soon there’ll be a full review on here, in case you’re even more of a tightwad than I am or if it takes more than a clever observation on bathroom water to convince you.

UPDATE – just finished.  Take a look!

Sector Twelve by Emitar

This is Mars. It would not be a good place to live. Thx, NASA, for the photo.

“It was here in the heart of the God of War where he found the flame of love…”

Jeez, this guy’s got a thing with Mars. But, hey, it works. And how can you not love Mars? It’s so not-imaginary. I think those of us who absorb ourselves in science fiction occasionally need an element of the real. Things hit hard that hit close to home.
Sector Twelve is a collection of short stories, taking place on Mars of course, by the Emitar, the same guy who wrote “Bad Season” that I reviewed recently.
Stay tuned if you like reviews, I’ll be putting one up pretty soon. Otherwise, head on over to Sector Twelve grab a space suit and let us know what you think.