10 October, 2013

Why I Write (very short form)

Reading the gold mine that is Narrative Technique by Thomas H. Uzzell, one discovers in the first paragraph of Chapter One the question, "Why do you wish to write fiction?"

"If you expect to secure the utmost benefit from this study," he goes on to say, "I wish you to pause right here in your reading and answer this question seriously. Write it out as completely as you can. Exactly why are you interested in writing narrative? Why do you prefer this form of writing to other forms? What do you hope to accomplish by your writing? What is the greatest success you can think of for yourself in this field? How did you get this way?"

If you like, if you're interested in writing, break down his question thusly and try to answer it. You may surprise yourself with how important such reflection is. Herein lies the dissolution of the myth that technique should not be studied because true art stems from inspiration. Here is your purpose, your inspiration. Craft will only assist you in empowering it.

I've read the beginning of Narrative Technique twice, and I'm re-reading it now for a class I'm teaching. The last two times I read it were before having written Paint the Raven Black, and I often say to people that it's in writing my novel that I've discovered my artistic purpose, and indeed my style, and what sort of fiction I intend to produce. I've discovered who I am as an artist. I was pleased by how readily I could answer Thomas H. Uzzell's question this time around. The last two times, I worked hard at convincing myself I had a full answer. This time I didn't blink. I spoke from my easy chair to the far wall of my study, imagining Thomas standing there, and thought I'd follow his direction and type my speech. And what better forum for an artist than the public?

I write with what Orwell called "political purpose". He meant "political" in the widest possible sense, as in, "of the polis" or "regarding the state (not political state) in which people live" which is a more accurate and socio-anthropologically sound delineation of the Greek word than to merely translate it as "city".

I write because I see a world of insanity that I wish to impact upon, to help people grow, be good to each other, see clearly and appreciate both the beauty and the horrors that surround us. I write to open eyes and influence behaviour, hopefully for the better.

I write for metaphor, for the potency of message and for the beauty of life and small truths that can be found in human behaviour. I believe through metaphor one can touch the human essence of a thing and in offering that piece of humanity, one can make another feel. I believe that's beautiful. I write speculative literature in part because it is a realm of metaphor, and in part because I believe questions of reality and the self are more relevant now than ever. I believe the reasons for that truth are worth criticising, perhaps even fearing, and overcoming. (Note: to fear is not to cower, but to recognise a strong enemy and let your adrenaline surge.)

But most of all, in truth, I write because it cleanses my soul and lets me feel the things I care for. I write what I would want to read, and that so happens to be books of strong theme and "political purpose" as Orwell said. It is not out of pomposity, but the simple fact that books without said purpose don't hold my attention. I write for myself.

I wish to draw a distinction: writing for myself does not make it a self-oriented process. To write for myself is merely to choose those dramas that I wish to invest in, that I feel passionately for, and that I wish others to feel in kind. Why this form of art? Why not write sociological essays? Partly, in truth, because I love books, but mostly because it is through metaphor and drama that one can touch the true emotional, human essence of a thing, give it significance and purpose, evidence its human significance, the weight of it within heart and mind, and make others feel the same. That is the beauty of art. That is my mission and hopefully, one day, a worthy gift to you.

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