I’ve been writing a lot about various permutations of writer’s block recently. “Write what you know,” that’s what they say.
It’s odd, isn’t it? All that one must do to write is put words down, to transcribe one’s thoughts. We all know how to do it – at least, presumably, anyone reading these words is familiar with the process. How can writing be difficult when it’s so easy?
The answer, of course, is standards. We don’t want to write just anything, we want to write something good. There’s two traditional ways to write something not-good, at least in non-narrative writing: Either writing something obvious, or writing something wrong.
Most young writers seem to prefer obvious. This is likely because things which have become self-evident to the rest of us a long time ago are still new and interesting to them, and they have not yet gained the experience to realize how hackneyed all forms of adolescent triumph and suffering are. Older writers, however, prefer more often than not to be simply wrong, to build themselves elaborate and circuitous labyrinths of reason that lead nowhere useful – but, sometimes, are fun to walk through, even if just for the hell of it.
It is the difference between content and form: ‘Obvious’ is content with no form; ‘wrong’ is form with no content.
Recognizing this dichotomy is vital to growth as a writer. Thinking about it too much is probably the best way to stop writing ever again. It is real goddamn easy for this philosophy to eat you.
Which is about is where I’m at now. There are a lot of things I could write about, here, but most of them, I worry, will be either wrong or obvious. I have generally, thus far, preferred to be wrong, as is only appropriate for someone now past 30. My reasoning is that, even if I’m wrong, my thoughts will at least be novel, and may spark off new ideas for people who read my writing – whereas, if I’m obvious, it will be merely tedious, and the best I might manage is a small following of persons who love having their particular beliefs reaffirmed.
Actually, some people get rather large followings that way. Regardless, it is not for me.
However, I do tend to assume things are obvious when they really aren’t. I do tend to assume that explaining something once is enough. I do tend to assume that if I expressed myself well then one-hundred-percent of my message is conveyed, that no bits and pieces will be dropped along the way.
You know what they say about assuming: It makes an ass out of you and Ming, which I assume refers to Yao Ming, who definitely has better things to do with his time than put up with your shit.
This is no good at all. My best ideas will get lost in the shuffle because I just fire them out there and never build upon them, because I’m scared of repeating myself, of being tedious or inefficient. In avoiding saying obvious things, maybe I’m missing the opportunity to express some subtle nuance, some little ramification upon the obvious, that no one else has yet seen. We still enjoy the works of writers who died hundreds of years ago, despite their work becoming a cliche premised upon itself, because their original work, that which immortalized their cliche, has that immaculate touch of subtlety and beauty, that quiet blue shade of a deeper truth concealed under the obvious truth, that elevates it in a way no imitator can achieve.
I can’t afford to run. If it’s obvious but must be said, I will say it. If it’s wrong but interesting, elucidating, inspiring, I will say it. If it’s embarrassing I will say it. If I’ve already said it but thought of some new things to say about it, I will say it. I will pour myself out, and hope that, amongst all of the triteness and triviality, all of the byzantine sophistry, all of the frankly stupid jokes and all of that claptrap that hobbles my weird and unreliable brain, my readers will find something of value.
It’s like being a stripper of the mind. Even in the flashing lights, can you see the scars?
It’s not perfect, but it’s what I have. I hope you like it.