Tuesday, 30 October 2012

I'm Not Hemingway

It's so good to be back! And it's Halloween! And Frankenstorm just ravaged New York! And the elections are a mere week away! And the last Twilight is coming soon! And...and...my head is totally spinning. So many things have happened, and are going to happen, I'm awash with emotion. What they are, exactly, I can't say--it's just that frickin' much.

I haven't blogged in about a month and I have to do some major catching up, but for what it's worth I got to have some much needed "down time" and I also managed to make some major threads in my writing. I'm nearly finished with one and half way through the other. How's that for progress, huh? Last month I was unsure if I was even able to finish my WIP before next year and now I'm well on my way. Ah yes, I feel good.

And speaking of which: I have a little story to tell you that revolves around the whole premise of "good" and what it means to writing. Okay, so our tale starts last week on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon--birds chirping, bees buzzing and the fresh caress of wind kissing my cheeks... Well, not quite but it was a gorgeous day nonetheless. I was sitting on the porch at my grandma, penning Chapter 7, when Banquo, an old friend of the family, stopped by to see my grandfather. Now, Banquo is a man in his forties with a bald head, a wild, toothy smile and huge green globes that bore into your very flesh. I've known him for a while and he likes to ask questions and argue about things he knows little about. Ya, he's that kind of a gentleman.

"Basquil, here?" he asked (Basquil is my grandpa's nickname)

"Yeh," I said, and I called out to my grandma to tell her who was here, then I returned my attention to the page.

"So yuh busy busy with school?."

"Nah, this is my WIP."

"Yuh what?"

"Uh, my novel."

"Oh, oh right--a novel," he said shaking his head knowingly. "So yuh tryin' to be a writer, eh? Like Hemingway?"

(Like Hemingway?) "Yeah, I guess I am." and I put my head down, trying to concentrate.  

After a long pause he says, "Yuh thhink you good like Hemingway?"

"Um...I don't think...um--no. I don't think I am."

He laughs. "Well if you ain't good like one ah the greats what's the point?"


"I don't have--"

But I never got to tell him. My grandpa came out at that moment and they both left quite abrubtly.

I have always questioned my worth with regard to writing; half the time I think I suck and half the time I want to give up and never try again. When I read books like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, How to Kill a Mockinbird, Carrie, The Great Gatsby and all those other fantastic works out there, I ask myself, "Do you really think you can do that?" For as long as I can remember the question has always been "no".

Until that Tuesday afternoon.

Banquo made me realize that I am not like Hemingway, nor should I ever try to be. I am not a great writer; I can't spin beautiful prose at the drop of a hat, execute perfect grammar in a heartbeat or create characters that speak to millions without much thought. No. I am none of that because I am me. I am a good writer who can spin beautiful prose after countless revisions, execute perfect grammar after quite a few spell checks and create characters that speak to many after I've polished their dialogue, spoofed up their background and made them die, bleed, cry and die again. I don't have to write a fantastic novel that will win awards and sell millions, I just have to write a good book. That's all. You see, writing is like the paintings at an art exhibition: hundreds of people are gathered around The Scream absolutely in awe of it, but you walk by and all you see is a mess of colors and the vague image of this wobbly looking "man" holding his face. What's a gem to some isn't a gem to you; what fancies me doesn't fancy you. That's writing. And that's how it's always been and always will be.

No matter if I do write great prose not everyone will get it. Some will still call it shit. And that's okay. That's absolutely, positively okay! It took me so many years to realize this but I'm glad I have. Now I don't care (that much) if I write glowing stuff or not, 'cause who's to say it's not great? An aspiring writer? A NY Times Bestseller? Kirkus Reviews? Pfft, please. When all is said and done, the only one who can call you a bad writer is you.

Or Ernest Hemingway...

But he's dead, so...


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Conundrum of Experience vs Quality

My vacation time started two weeks ago today. I've been saving them up for a while (since last year, at least) and I finally decided now is the time to take a month-long break and just do what I want to do, which is finish two novels before the year is up. I decided not to go partying or take a trip to some exotic locale but spend time in the country with my grandparents. They have this really old home in the hills where you can see the ocean and the distant islands from the bedroom window. It's a scenic place that invokes a sort of grim awe when you stay there. And by grim awe I mean you feel as though this is what eternity would be like if you died and didn't go to Heaven or Hell. Anyway, I didn't bring my laptop or any sort of device with an internet connection because I wanted to just let live, ya know? Plus, I've found it rather endearing writing longhand. Well, today I went to the "village" (which is basically a residential community with a supermarket, a pub and a gas station) to pick up some macaroni and potatoes for dinner and I happened upon an internet cafe. It occured to me I hadn't blogged in a while and left without any notice so I simply had to write something--it would've been terribly rude if I hadn't.    

I've had a lot of time to think lately and I came up with a theory on an everyday brain twister. In economics we are taught that the buying public's spending habits are driven by wants rather than needs, but beyond this, we have ascertained that they are far less complicated than most would beleive. In fact, they are quite simple spenders (hence why I call them sheep.) So when a group of folks I work with were trying to figure out why the poorly written Fifty Shades of Grey is so popular, it got me thinking... Why, indeed, is it so popular? Well, I'm sure there are many reasons for this conundrum but I have come to the conclusion that people are willing to forfeit, and unequivocally so, quality for an experience.

Think about it: there's a new roller coaster that just opened, it's been dubbed the fastest and highest ever created; there are saftey concerns that could put some at risk--it's not the safest or the most stable--but by golly it's the frickin' FASTEST and HIGHEST! How many people you think will ignore the risks (the ride's quality) and try it anyway? A lot, right? And that's just the thing... people don't really care about quality all that much (with certain things). They like it hard, they like it fast, they like it to take /do/shove them to places they've never been.

That is the biggest reason for Fifty Shades of Grey's success. You can argue it's the affiliation with Twilight, the word of mouth marketing, the characters, the sex, the pure and utter kinky disarray but if the book itself can't capture the reader's fancy, regardless, then it will fail. MISERABLY. When all is said and done, it doesn't matter how badly written something is, for it to truly be a good work it needs to offer the readers a mind blowing experience like no other.     

At least that's what I think. Feel free to dismiss it entirely. ^_^

See you soon. 
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