Finding Meaning

Years ago, when I went to the Kris and Dean Oregon Coast Professional Writers’ workshop, I found myself listening to the things they were saying on HOW to write, and finally asked Kris, “But what about why you write?  How do I work on that?”

I got back a puzzled look (as I should) and the words that we were each supposed to find WHY we wrote.  Or words to that effect.

Which was right and just, since while most of us have no clue why we write, we know we can’t stop.  If we want to make up a pretty story about why we write, GOOD.  No one can stop us.

In my case I write because otherwise people object to my kidnapping total strangers to tell them stories.

But is every story alike?  Do I write to tell people a certain set of facts?  What meaning do I find in my work.

Ah.

Well… No, every story is not alike.  Very early on I identified certain stories which I called “heart’s blood.”  More on that later.

Do I write to tell people a certain set of facts?  Not noticeably.  There are two short stories I planned to write, to get a point of view across.  The first, the point of view was supposed to be that there is no such thing as perfect diplomacy.  Sometimes even with the best translations and intentions, diplomatic efforts will only precipitate war. It never got written.  Yes, the story made sense, and had a point, but I had no impetus to write it.

The second story was about how boomers were using social blue models to loot the younger generations, and what this would cause, in terms of upheaval and backlash.  Never wrote it.  True, but way too depressing.

So, no.  I write stories that form complete in my mind, and which do, sometimes, include elements of political or cultural things I believe.  I write things that fascinate me and interest me.

They might have my beliefs in them.  But they aren’t started or written to preach.

But if not to promulgate my views, what are stories for?

Well, “heart’s blood” stories come alive.  There are real people with real things at stake and a real struggle to make things come out right.  I CARE for the characters and the situation.  I want it to come out right.  I’m riveted.

Which is why heart’s blood stories usually capture others too.

I mean, what kind of art is it if when you look at it you need to have it explained to you how it’s good because it supports the right principles?  Oh, wait, modern art.  Never mind.

Art: real art throughout the centuries can speak across the centuries, regardless of how much society has changed and how much the principles believed in have changed.  We’re not any longer the solid Catholic society in which Leonardo DaVinci worked, but the Virgin of the Rocks still speaks to us and hits us in the emotions.

Shakespeare’s wording has aged, and sure we know some of it was Tudor propaganda, but the stories still live and the characters are true.

But what about promulgating the just and right ideas?  What is art if it doesn’t speak truth to power?

Art is art.  Whether it serves propaganda purposes or not, art remains art.  Whether it opposes or endorses the “power” in society doesn’t matter.  Richard III was an hatchet job.  It’s also, undeniably art.

Do not let yourself be gulled into writing this or that because “this must be said” or that “Is speaking truth to power.”  Sure, if those are your reasons to write, that’s fine, but ultimately?  It can mask what you’re doing so you produce very bad art.  I.e. if you’re concentrating on preaching the “right” (or left) “truths” you’re not concentrating on making the world and the characters live in their own right and be true art.  Sure.  Some people can do it.  But you’re making it exponentially harder.

Write heart’s blood.  Write what makes your heart sing.  If people tell you that it’s wrong, and that you should write truth to power, or power to truth, or whatever they tell you you should do, ignore them.

True art, or as close as you can get to it, is eternal.  Ignore ephemeral concerns.  Go and write.  That is the meaning and the whole of the meaning.  Go and write stories that live.  Nothing else matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Comments

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31 responses to “Finding Meaning

  1. Art: real art throughout the centuries can speak across the centuries, regardless of how much society has changed and how much the principles believed in have changed.

    Oh yes, real art endures. My favorite wings at the Met are Egyptian and Greco-Roman, which are also some of the most popular exhibits there. Want lots of empty space to mediate? Try the impressionists, there might be a few people there. Most paintings get a few glances, but I can spend hours wandering around those maimed/decapitated marble statues.

    • Draven

      The VA Museum of Art has an entire room full of Faberge stuff… several eggs of several sizes, and other little things of such beauty intricacy and craftsmanship…

  2. Martin L. Shoemaker

    Write heart’s blood. Readers will find their own meanings in it.

  3. Why do I write? People in my head trying to get out. >:D

  4. amiegibbons15

    Mine get violent and slutty when I make them wait. They’re basically teenagers who need adult supervision.

    • Mine are slutty all the time. It’s like a default state with them. No matter what the conversation, they always end up in that place.

      Given that it’s all taking place in -my- brain pan, sometimes I start to wonder about myself. But then I blame it on the characters and their one-track minds, and I feel better. ~:D

  5. Kidnapping total strangers and making them listen to my stories?
    Genius!!!
    Why didn’t I think of that?
    Now, where’s that pesky chloroform….

    🙂

  6. I write because I have to. Be it fiction or non-fiction, there are words that want to come out, stories that might just be true. Been happening for over thirty years now, so I suppose I’m hopeless. Getting to sell those stories and discovering that other people like them?

    Priceless.

  7. They do have awesome classes! I write because I have something to say, and when I manage to say it well enough that a reader says “Give me more,” we’ll, it’s a satisfying feeling.

  8. Randy Wilde

    I thought you wrote so people like me will give you money. Or is that just why you publish?

    • Nope. It gets too crowded in here, and they complain all the time. Then they do crazy shit like wheelie a giant tank across a dry wash in the desert while being chased by the Dark Ones.

      How does one wheelie a tank? I’m glad you asked! Fusion power. Tracks made of nanotubes, iron whisker wire and some really fancy weaving architecture. Crazy driver.

  9. I think a Muse is a jealous lovers who will eventually abandon the creator if he keeps stepping out on her with that trollop Fashion.

    More prosaically, Jagi Lamplighter has an interesting piece on the idea of “writing for the needs of the culture” vs. “writing for the needs of the drama.” Selection here: “Dating the Monster” (http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2015/02/25/superversive-blog-the-needs-of-drama-vs-the-needs-of-culture/) that I was pointed to from Superversive SF blog.

    The whole thing is in Ardeur (Ben Bella Books, also available via one’s public library); essays on the Anita Blake books, aka, “A series that went from serving the needs of drama but not of traditional culture–to serving the needs of modern culture, but not of drama.

  10. Why do I write? I don’t know, I’m an artist. As in visual arts. And I’m a reader.

    I guess it’s because nobody else is writing these stories, dammit, and I have a strange attraction to certain types of challenges.

  11. caitliniwoods

    I think I’ve got one of those. It’s the first story *ever* that’s run away with me, and my husband keeps encouraging me to write more at the expense of overtime, dishes, laundry etc because he needs to know what happens next.

    …but I keep being leery because the main plot is a modern 30-yr-old cult member and a modern 16-year-old normal getting together. For literally the worst reason. (Seriously, he was ordered to make a baby with a fellow virgin to make the fuel for a cult sacrifice.) And… dear God, but they’re trying to make it work despite all of that.

    I’ve so far been able to keep the leery away when I’m actively writing, and I’m usually getting 2-3k a day. So… it can’t be all bad?

    (Figure, worst case scenario it gets an audience of 2 and I take what I’ve learned from finishing it to other projects.)

    But yeah, not knowing why and doing it anyway is hitting me today.