Thursday, April 16, 2009

You are not the poem

In her book, "Writing Down the Bones", Natalie Goldberg has a chapter dedicated to convincing a poet that he is not the poem itself, but rather only the emotions he was feeling at the moment he wrote the poem. I think Goldberg should be telling this to the readers, as they are the ones having problems differentiating between the writer and the writing. It is odd that with every second person out there being a writer, few of us personally know one. Perhaps therein lies the problem. Virtually every person I know reads books, but the vast majority of those people don't know any other writers besides me (and yes, I do dare to call myself a writer). As a result, and it's especially the people who know me well, they constantly assume that my writing tells some kind of a story about me. Each person looks for himself within my characters. This is not only untrue and frustrating, but it is inhibiting my writing. I am trying to come up with narrators that are as far from the real me as possible, so that the readers will actually look at what I'm trying to say, rather than attempt to learn something about me, or even worse, about themselves. Here is my final explanation and plea. 

The writing that you find on this blog has several purposes. One is to potentially develop a character or play with a character type. Another is to experiment with different writing styles and tools. A third purpose is to create different voices and to simply convey a mood. Sometimes you're not supposed to remember the details, but rather get a certain feeling from the piece overall. At no point, however, will you find a fiction piece that is trying to convey some hidden secret about me personally, or about you. In fact, what I'm trying to do is become someone else and try to feel what he/she is feeling.

Having said all that, of course no matter how hard I try, I cannot fully detach myself from me. So you will potentially find pieces of me, and perhaps you too, here and there. But please don't look for them, they are not there intentionally, and therefore serve no purpose in and of themselves. Just enjoy the work you find here (if enjoyable you find it). And if you want to learn more about me, just ask. But please let me be free in my writing. 


  1. To be honest, I've had to remind myself on multiple occasions of the fact that you're writing fiction. Being your brother, sometimes my mind subconsciously tries to extract meaning from your writing, and I have to make a concerted effort to stop.

    Thanks for pointing that out explicitly. I will double my efforts to push those unnecessary thoughts out.

  2. Yes, please do. You've never said anything, but other people (including Sasha) have assumed that I'm writing about something specific in my life and will ask follow-up questions, interpolating from my FICTION work. Mom constantly says that so much of my writing is sad - I must be really sad myself. None of these things are true, but I'm glad that my writing is so believable! :)

  3. well said, great post!

    issue resolved :))

  4. I had to replay the comments in my head to see if I'd done that as well.
    The reason readers dig into the text is because it's difficult to get intimate with a story without some emotional connection (bad or good) with the writer. I once tired posting under several names (and openly admitting it) and found that readers treated each one like in independent person, and still tried to get to know them, knowing full well that they're fictional. We want to discover, and we want to feel close to the writer, this is natural.
    It is frustrating, but try using it. Maybe create a dozen personae or so. Grrr, friends honking. I'll have to finish this later. Hold that thought.

  5. Holding...but the problem with different personas is that it will mean that I have to maintain several different blogs, still notify the people that I care about of the different blogs (because their opinions matter), and use all blogs for commercial means (I'm having a tough time doing that with just one blog). And I don't think it will resolve the problem in any case....but I'm waiting to see what else you have to say on that matter Karl...

  6. No no, all on the same blog. If the system doesn't allow multiple bloggers (it should, no?) then just start a post with 'Written by John Doe.' It helps both you and your readers, you mostly because it helps develop a unique voice, and experiment like you said you wanted to. John Doe can be a transvestite dog-lover with a broken heart, one leg and a tattoo of a phoenix on his butt that he never approved of. Imagine his view of the world.

    You could also send me some of your stuff. I'm hording enough flash fiction to pre-post for a year or so, it'll be a different blog altogether and one that you don't have to market.

    Finally, you can ignore this altogether and expect your readership to follow instructions. I know I'll think thrice before digging into your writing again :)

  7. The system definitely doesn't allow multiple bloggers, as far as I can tell. But I think at least part of the problem is definitely the fact that I mix in fiction work with my personal opinion pieces. Technically, I use two different fonts for the different types of pieces, but the differences are too subtle for anyone to notice (I'm sure).

    I love the idea of the John Doe character - good one! I will employ that tactic, in one form or another, in the future. I'm going to come up with a more explicit way to separate fact from fiction, so that my readers actually have some guidance from me in that regard as well.

    In general, I definitely don't want to make it more difficult for people to read my blog and place any kind of burden on them in so doing. This is actually supposed to be an enjoyable experience. Perhaps the bigger problem lies within me, and I should just say screw how people interpret what I write, I say what I want to say. I guess that's something I'm going to have to come to terms with as I evolve into the writer I will become. :)