Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The Writing Bug Again and Again!
The Desire to Write It's strange, so it is, the desire to write. Here I am beginning to write and yet not a clear idea in my head as to what I should put down on paper. Somewhere at the back of my mind there exists some sort of idea, yet I'm only barely glimpsing it, as if through a fog. I suppose that's the way it is with all writing. We write to clarify, to penetrate the fog, to glimpse, then to see more clearly and perhaps finally to view an overall vista, even if it is only the construct of our minds. Why do I write? I suppose I write to come to grips with life, with all the disparate experiences life throws up for me. I write to express how I feel on any particular occasion. I write because I enjoy the experience of seeing something, some story, some poem take shape before my eyes, some form of words that never existed before. This is probably the same for any creative artist, be he or she poet, novelist, artist, musician, composer or architect. As humans we need to give shape and form to our experiences, simply because we cannot live with sheer chaos. It is the very heart of the human condition that it should seek to give shape and form - in short, some kind of meaning - to the world as we experience it. Even those like Sartre and Camus et al, who sought to express what they considered as the meaninglessness of the whole human enterprise, put shape, form, and, in consequence, some meaning, on all the disparate experiences life confronted them with. Perhaps the question they should have faced was their own desire for meaning, shape and form in this so called 'meaningless universe'. Where did that desire come from? Was it just wishful thinking? Or was it more? I am not writing with the aim of constructing some metaphysical world of meaning here at all. Such a philosophical discourse belongs to more learned works proper. I write about the very basic human drive to create and construct, to map and to shape, to form and to fashion, to mould and to forge. From primitive prehistoric humankind to its modern counterpart this quest for meaning lives on. I suppose there is nowhere so crucial for this quest for form and meaning than at the extreme experiences of human endurance. Witness all the creative works that have grown from such experiences: books upon books recounting the horrific experiences in the concentration camps of the Second World War; films upon films tracing similar experiences in celluloid form; whole symphonies and shorter pieces attempting to come to grips with these depths of misery in some musical form. I have just finished reading Return of the Brute by Liam O'Flaherty and have been quite moved. This writer surely penned this classic little novel as a way of exorcising the demons of war that must have haunted him since he fought in the terrible trenches of the First World War. O'Flahery here gives shape to his feelings, his own experiences, and in so doing recreates for us, some eighty years after the event, a second-hand experience of the terror of it all. After reading such a well-shaped novel, how I wish I could write an equally good one. Then the style alone is superb, how just the right words are chosen. There are no redundant sentences or words. The style is succinct and to the point. As S.T. Coleridge said on many an occasion: "Style is the right words in the right places." And so we write to communicate something, to set down something, to give structure and meaning to our experiences. As I sit and type these words I delight in the sentences taking shape on the screen or the page. They were never there before. It's an exercise in making words behave as Anthony Burgess says. Have you a story to tell? Have you experiences you would like to share with others? They say there is at least one novel in everybody. There surely must be hundreds of poems in every single person on this planet. Of course the problem is having the skills to give your experiences shape and form, and having done that to do it in a novel and new way, with a different slant that, perhaps, has never been tried before. I am constantly searching for new ideas, yet I always seem to come up against a blank wall, a blank page. Somehow everything seems to have been tried before. As Qoheleth says, 'there is nothing new under the sun.' But as every author knows and they certainly would reprimand this Biblical author and retort: 'that maybe so, Qoheleth, but there are so many different and unique ways to say it, and that's what it is all about.' The portrait above is that of S.T.Coleridge, the great poet and philosopher of the English Romantic literary Movement. Coleridge has been a hero of mine for years!