Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Writing


I will tell you a truth about being a writer. No one else will tell you this, because they will say it is too simple, that it generalizes too much and diminishes the role of artists in our culture, but it is true.

There are only three writers.

Either you are talking about The Way Things Are, or Why Things Are What They Are, or you get mad and decide to talk about Something New Entirely.

That's it. That's the big secret.

The First Writer is important. He is a reporter, a chronicler of the Here and Now. She keeps our society from becoming to outwardly focused, keeps us returning to self-evaluation when we get too enthralled by the bread and circuses in our daily lives.

The Second Writer is a very fun person. She sees the relationships between disparate trends, understands the root causes and how A influences B. Second Writer points out what others fail to see and explain our lives in ways we hadn't considered, making us introspective with purpose, instilling the impetus to do good and provide betterment to our world.

And provides nothing.

Noticing connection and discussing philosophy is important, yet changes nothing. They are passive forms of thought. Important, useful, but ultimately not creative.

No, perhaps that is a poor, diminishing word. These modes of expression take effort. They are important, imperative. We must have them to be inventive. They are the long division of empirical thought. Philosophy is descriptive; ethics are an effort, a choice. We are given an understanding of the world, but choose how we will proceed.

When we have teased all the meaning we can out of life, when we can no longer abide comparing Miley Cyrus to Batman and we are tired, and we want truly to affect The Way Things Are, writers give up on description until they find something of their own to describe again.


I enjoyed being a First Writer. I had nothing to say, but a great desire to say much. So I was verbose. I learned a terrible number of adverbs and adopted the semicolon like an orphaned Cambodian child I could feed for pennies a day. I wrote scenes, all emotionally charged and all in which absolutely nothing happened, and what did happened happened without explanation. It was self-indulgent and subconscious, and it accomplished for me nothing.

Being a Second Writer is an incredible pain in my ass. I have so much to say still, but I recite it feeling like I'm retelling the same jokes to my friends. I was openly criticized last week for telling a story about a funny joke I made to someone else, because it wasn't funny as a story. I followed this by commenting on the dead air and implied a friend who had just left would shout from the back door like a prick at a flailing New York comedy club, "…You suck!" This got better laughs, and in telling it now I achieve nothing, because even that story isn't funny on-the-cuff. I have jokes, but no goal for them. I've been told that being a Writer means having to kill your favorite children. So as loath as I am to lose them, my progeny drown slowly in the bathtub.

I'm starting to build my own beliefs. I have ideas for reasons and I'd like to tell you about them, and I'm working to make you listen. I want to make it easy, but I don't want to spoon-feed you. I want to convince you by showing you what I've seen and making my case, so that we can go forward together.

There are things I want to say to you. I hope one of them will feel Entirely New.

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