So yesterday I linked to this blog and wrote a response on my blog to her post, “Letter to a Young Writer.” She linked to my post via Twitter with some comment about how my blog proved her point, or something. All that is fine, and the link helped drive additional traffic to this blog, which I know she knew that would do that. So for that I thank her.
She today posted a follow-up on her blog explaining her post and her intentions behind writing it in the manner that she did, a manner I described as “a cynical diatribe.” In a nutshell, she says the post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. My favorite part of her self critique is this:
It was an over-the-top self-annihilation of a part of myself, a part of most or all of us, that is grotesque, and competitive, and, well, sort of sick.
I’m not 100% sold on what this means. I get the satire part of it, and the whole thing about satirizing the competitive side of the business. It’s the phrase “self annihilation” I’m not clear on. Does this mean she was critiquing herself in an effort to purge this behavior from herself? Does she recognize these negative qualities within her and truly strives to rid herself of them? Or does she see these qualities and allow them to exist?
Because this brings up a great point about being an artist. Part of being an artist is self discovery, self reflection and self critique. It is an introverted process that requires a frightening amount of introspection. You have to dwell deep within the internal cave and face all the creepy crawlies no matter how big and poisonous and scary they may appear. If you do not confront the good and the bad you find inside, if you do not take a realistic view of what is dwelling within your subconcious and scrutinize your motivations for your actions in life, you will never unlock your true potential as an artist. I’m not saying this girl hasn’t done that. If you read further, she implies life has dealt her some shitty hands from time to time. But just because you get covered in poopy doesn’t mean you’ve learned not to stand under a cow. You have to live and you have to learn. And as an artist you take these life lessons and you incorporate them into your art. For someone like her who appears to do narrative non-ficiton, that means you cover topics you find interesting, that personally touch you, that you have a vested interest in. That doesn’t mean writing about yourself, only those things you have a passion for. If you like character studies, write about interesting people. If you like death, write about war. So live, learn and let that influence your writing. Hopefully this girl has done that. Hopefully she has reflected on her motivations for what she does and has discovered that being published in a big magazine or being on television aren’t really worthy motivations. What is a worthy motivation? Just having a passion and doing it because you have to, because something inside you says that if you don’t, your life will cease to be as vibrant.
And I still stand by the fact that writing doesn’t have to be about the big things. It doesn’t have to be about the guy who gets blown up in Iraq or a prostitute being a whore. Because we all have these stories. Every single one of us. I do. I’m sure you do too. Even if it doesn’t seem as grandiose as a man who was wrongly convicted of murder or an African orphan or people living in an American ghetto, it is just as important and just as worthy of writing about. Because a story about a man getting his arm blown off in Iraq isn’t a story about a man getting his arm blown off in Iraq. It is a story of loss and acceptance, of servitude and consequence. We all have expereienced elements of these themes throughout our lives. So why not write about that? If you can find the miraculous in the everyday, you are set as a writer. And in fact, I’d extend that to say you are set as a human being.