I think one experience I’ve learned from the readings and writing that I’ve done throughout the past year is that as a writer, you cannot take everything you jot down be purposefully serious. I don’t mean in the matters of tone, but in the matters of meaning. Fiction writers alone cannot be taken as the most serious of humans, especially due to the fact that already, we spend days writing about events that either may have been altered from real life scenarios, or may have never happened- or can’t happen- at all.
Sometimes, writers just have got to write crap for a while. It doesn’t matter what; so long as it’s stemmed from their brain, and then otherwise. I believe that when writers have to write crap, I think it’s often fueled by one of two ulterior motives: 1. to write until something of good quality comes out of it or 2. just like holding in strong emotions for too long, if you don’t write it down, you’ll eventually explode at the most inappropriate time; a way of a “safer” release in that regard.
I had an experience with the second of the two motives at the beginning of the week. I wrote a rather lengthy short story for the sake of getting it out of me. I did not write it with the intention of ever it being seen by the world and now, I can guarantee that it never will be. A few days after I wrote it, I deleted the file. I wrote what had to be said and no longer had the need to keep it in my possession. Not everything I write has to be seen by the world.
I think there’s another angle that I can approach to when writing about writers not being so serious, and that is that they can’t always be dependable on having every word they write, every setting, every object have meaning. Sometimes, they may decide on something- a plot device or what not- just for the pure hell of it. I watched a documentary that was done a few years back on Haruki Murakami and he mentioned how he’s been asked by people if there was a reason why there are cats featured in Kafka on the Shore and sheep in A Wild Sheep Chase; expecting an answer of deep meaning and symbolism behind the selected creatures. His answer, though, is relatively simple yet maybe just as equally as shocking. Those animals were of his primary focus in those selected works because he simply wanted an excuse to write about them.
This can tie in with a statement I heard from author David Mitchell when he took part in a podcast conducted by the BBC a few years back. He believes that if authors had all the answers about their books, then that would considered mad. They too have questions to ask about their work too; about why a character is a certain way, what a certain object is so very important to the protagonist, why they used a particular plot device, etc, etc.
Writers are the not-so serious of beings, and yet people take them seriously anyway, sometimes a little too seriously. One summer, when I was still in high school, one of the my summer reading assignments was to read and annotate a how-to book on how to read and analyze books like a professor. If annotating a how-to book of all books wasn’t weird enough, it got weirder when I got to this one part of the book that will forever stick out in my memory of my teenage years. The author went into great detail on the “Christian reference” in Ernest Hemingway‘s The Old Man and the Sea when the character, Santiago, was splayed out on his back at one point, looking like Jesus Christ as he was nailed to the cross.
When I read that part in the how-to book, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that concept. I had read The Old Man and the Sea only a few years prior to that in my high school freshman English class and never in a million years would I have caught onto that imagery. If anything, I would likely consider that imagery to be that of a coincidence. In fact, I don’t think that was even Hemingway’s true intention of that when he wrote the book. If Corey Stoll‘s portrayal of Hemingway in the film Midnight in Paris was anywhere close to how the real Hemingway was, then I wouldn’t be surprised if the man was rolling in his grave the day that how-to book was published, because of that ridiculous theory!
Writers are the not-so serious of beings, but sometimes it is necessary to take them seriously. To leave a book an empty slate of zero motive, purpose or meaning behind it would be a colossal waste of efforts. There are authors who take the initiative to incorporate meaning from small-to-large ways; to maintain a balance. And I think that’s a purpose all authors intend to achieve when in writing; to add meaning at a balanced level, all the while coinciding with the pure sake of telling an interesting story.
A few nights ago at my school, I shared a one-page excerpt from my impending composite novel. Including me, 15 people were there, and 15 people remained throughout my short reading. While a few were there for the sake of reading some of their handy creative writing as well, perhaps them, amongst the others, stuck by rather than getting up and leaving, because they could sense that in that excerpt, it would eventually lead up to a meaningful tale to hear as a whole. However, who’s to say that I’m the judge of that theory? I’m just a writer, not a mind reader.
Writers are the not-so serious of beings. Like everyone else, we are human. We write crap and mess up. We are over analyzed for meanings that were never there to exist in the first place. We create universes beyond the scientific definition of the word and yet, we don’t have all the answers to them. But through it all, it’s very important when to take a writer seriously, and when not to.
We’re all in this journey together.
2 Replies to “The Not-So Serious of Beings”
It’s always weird when people want to look for so many arcane, deeper meanings in a novel than the author probably ever intended. I loved your Hemingway example. If I ever write a best-selling novel, I’ll write an FAQ blog post that says: “No, she’s not a Christ-figure. No, he didn’t secretly sleep with her sister. No, they weren’t abused as kids. No, they are not moving to Seattle after the end of the novel.” Enjoyed your insights. What was the Murakami documentary you watched?
Lol! Good idea (on the FAQ post). As for the Murakami documentary, it’s called “A Wild Sheep Chase: In Search of Haruki Murakami.” It’s part of a series called “Imagine” that’s done by BBC and you can actually watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI6LyqO9i8Y.