I’m Sorry…Actually I’m Not At All…..

I’ve been reading Ernest Hemingway On Writing, and something that I have taken away from it, is how unapologetic Hemingway is for not only his work, but his life.  I don’t know about some of you out there, but I have an awful tendency to say sorry a lot and apologize in general.  This is of course whether it is called for or not. I even have a writing idiosyncrasy where I tend to undermine my own statements with various phrases by not sounding sure of myself.  This may be a more general problem, but for me, it is something of an annoying habit that I need to overcome.

Hemingway, rather than being callous or oblivious, carries himself in his quotes as an individual who simply lives and does what he is passionate about.  He seems to think it irrelevant what anyone else thinks, but not in the careless ‘I do what I want’ sense that most idiot youngsters say now. The irrelevance of ‘what other people think’, for Hemingway, is found more in the reality that he finds pleasure in his writing and that’s that.  He doesn’t need to trot about the streets and shout about it, he’d much rather just do the action that brings him his joy. The same concerns his hunting and fishing as well.

There is something to be said for that attitude.  And if nothing else it is something to adopt in order to take in stride with how we deal with our interests/passions.  We spend so much time ‘talking’ about what we want to do or how we ‘wish’ we could do something great, but talking just amounts to just that, talking.  When we are called up on our talking it then becomes nothing more than us apologizing or making excuses for ourselves. Enough with the ‘sorrys’ and more ‘doing’ or ‘keep goings’.

…writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.  It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done- so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well. -Ernest Hemingway to Ivan Kashkin (From the Selected Letters)

The Writer: The Silent Artist

I’ve been considering the position of the writer in society over the past week.  There’s plenty of fodder for what I could write about, including how writer’s are treated by society and the economy.  I recently read this Salon article that more or less epitomizes the perspective that most individuals have, regrettably.  In order to understand this view let me quote directly from the article, what one publishing founder’s advice was to other publishing houses:

“Company founder Rob Eagar informs publishers that there is a way to ‘maximize budgets in tough times.’ Namely, ‘You can train your authors to handle more of the marketing efforts. Writers who become skilled at promoting books can produce thousands of dollars in extra profits for the publisher.’”

He didn’t even stop there:

“Eagar writes, is that “these authors don’t require expensive salaries, office space, insurance packages, or retirement plans. Instead, the publisher just pays a small author royalty…It’s a win-win, right?”

This may seem callous, but this is in reality how businesses see writers, who are(and may be) utterly expendable in the face of the all consuming economy.  Sure, to the most pragmatic mentalities, writers are extraneous and maybe even at times burdens to our society.  I would say that goes for all artists, though since there is nothing ‘useful’ or anything that could conceivably be turned into an object of purpose.  I’d argue the point that in order for our culture to be truly civilized and to truly understand ourselves, we need artists.

Sand Drawings by Andres Amador
Sand Drawings by Andres Amador

Now, let’s talk about the artists themselves.  The writer finds himself in a very unique place as opposed to other mediums.  Every other art is in some varying degree public or is experienced sometimes jointly with others. One can think of music, any type of concrete art such as painting or sculpture, film and photography.  Even some of these various art forms directly involve a group of others, like cinema and photography.  Writing is by its nature, a lonely endeavour.

For myself, there’s a certain jealousy when it comes to watching musician. They always seem to grasp a larger audience than other mediums.  They also have a wider appeal(depending on genre), but in a sense that makes decent sense as to what their medium is. Music itself is a highly subjective area of opinion and the like, yet there is something about it that makes people feel emotions so vitally and passionately.

The action of writing on the other hand is solitary. Sadly, reading is an activity that the majority have grown unaccustomed to, insofar for the writer the fruits of his labor becomes less noticeable.  More often than not presently, the writer will write for himself and somehow make that sufficient. It is solely up to the writer to create what is written on his soul.  People write all the time, whether it’s for work, school or pleasure.  It takes a real writer to write not only for himself, but to share it with others.  And if you’re a writer who is shy about their work, don’t be.  It’s part of the process and you may be withholding something they needed to read at that moment.  When it comes to art and sharing, withholding is equivalent from not offering water to parched throat.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words…..Oops…

I was leafing through my writer’s notebook yesterday afternoon and I came across this thought I had written to myself a couple years ago:

If actions speak louder than words…then why write?

It’s a bit of a paradox and maybe there are some obvious practical answers to that question, but for me I find the question somewhat troubling.  I personally place a lot of emphasis on concrete action.  There’s always something stronger in doing an act of Love than merely saying ‘I love you’, which is one reason why Love is really an act rather than a feeling.  You can ask almost anyone around that actions are more powerful than words, but there are also the unique cases that words can incite cases where powerful actions/emotions are enacted as well.  An example could be in the case of the movie V for Vendetta, in which V says, “You can’t kill an idea,” and thereupon the fascist regime is overthrown by the sheer number of people who were moved by his words.  Yet, this is based in a movie, so a lot more ideal than one would think.

Portrait, 2013 | by Elizabeth Gadd
Portrait, 2013 | by Elizabeth Gadd

Turning back to my predicament as a writer I’ve struggled with this conception of action v.s. words.  What I have realized is that events have to taken down and spoken words have to be recorded otherwise they become lost in a culture’s memory.  And when you look closely at different movements that have occurred over the past couple centuries they have been ignited by the spark of a book or leaflet.  Communism, probably the most destructive idea(whether the actual practice of it actually matched the theory will not be discussed here) all began in ink, yet ended in the death of millions.  It is in this example that words retain a power that is not found in concrete action.  They have the ability to transcend a person’s life, circumstances, even their mentality.  It all comes down to how they accept the words on paper.

For an individual who hopes to touch people with what he writes.(I write for myself, but that also means I like sharing myself) The idea that words are weak in the face of action is something that I’ve come to understand, but also fight.  Words are flexible, but also solid.  They can as much hurt and destroy as any fist or bomb.  They can also express compassion and joy almost better than a smile or hug.  They can exist on paper or any surface, but can also exist within the temporal space of conversation.  They have a life that is largely indeterminate of our own lifetimes and often can be made immortal if they are spoken of enough or placed rightly into context.

Immortalizing Our Experiences…In Stories

Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story. -Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried)

I recently read this work by O’Brien a few days ago and was moved by this quote.  I’ve been thinking a lot on stories and how they impact our lives.  If there is not another thing that all persons share across cultures, it would be telling stories.  Reflecting on stories we just have to look to books(obviously), movies and even ourselves to see how they impact us.  Conversations with friends often dwell on stories and the reiteration of experiences as we remember certain events/periods in our life.  All of this becomes expressed from ourselves in forms of story one way or another.

Stories are something that we can all share and also use to transcend the barriers of time, place, and culture.  The retelling that is involved in these situations as well lends to us to find a certain meaning of those events in our life.  This might not be inside every story, but our stories are the vocal and inner expression of our lives that have come this far. Sure, it may just be a funny or an inconsequential story, but they can tell us for example, what we liked best of our past and how much it matters to us now.  It just takes a little reflection and most importantly time to really understand those events as they still effect us even now.

For me, writing is how stories come alive.  I write in order to process things sometimes and to truly understand what has occurred in my life, which is one reason why there tends to be a semi-autobiographical note in most of my short stories.  I think the writer cannot escape this without putting pieces of himself in his work and I think that goes the same for other artists.  Stories are the lifeblood of our culture. They have been around, since the beginning.  Even if the world burned up and humanity as we know it was stripped of everything, we would have our stories.  Our history is in essence, one giant story.

You might want to just pass this all off, but projects such as HONY and other things similar wouldn’t be so fascinating or so amazing, if we didn’t enjoy stories.  We all love to learn about real experience and to hear about others experiences and this comes out in our natural story telling.  Stories lead us to the underpinnings/reasons of why we do the things we do and show the roots of where we come from.  We cannot even be satisfied with a few stories, because we continue to go back for more, whether it’s in a book, on a screen, or to be lived.

Brandon Stanton (L), creator of the Humans of New York blog
Brandon Stanton (L), creator of the Humans of New York blog

Starting Anew (Well Sorta)

Last night, I decided it was time for a change.  I’ve needed to change up the blog up for a bit.  I wanted something that had a slightly different layout from what I’ve been using for over a year now and something more professional.  I wanted something seemingly more clean and more compact as well as simplistic all at once.  I’ve always liked black, since it tends to force you to focus on color or pictures that are against it’s backdrop.

Otherwise, there have been some shifts in my perspectives and interests recently; including that writing is principally what I want to do for the rest of my life.  Creative writing and possibly even film school is on the horizon for me(if I can get into either), though I am trying my best to get there.  Philosophy is of course something I am still very passionate about, yet it is something that I can’t justify pursuing to it’s natural end in academia(I’ll talk about this later).  In some ways I feel as if I’ve been running away from writing(which I have been) and well…I’m done running.

This all brings me back to the new blog and I’m starting here with the new layout/design of my blog as to start something new.  I needed to sharpen the focus more, considering I never really explicitly discussed philosophy on my blog, so the title was a bit irrelevant.  What I do tend to write a lot on is people, art, writing and society.  I hope my new title reflects that intention.  If you like/dislike/love/hate my new revamped blog, please let me know via comment!  Thank you all who have been reading me for a while or check in on me every now and then. This is just another step down life’s corridors as I try and find the right door to enter.  I’d like to say that I write for myself, but I don’t. I write for you, the reader.