A Subjectively Objective Nightmare
Strange but true, my loyal readers, strange but true indeed: A Subjectively Objective Nightmare. That’s what this installment of the column’s all about. Well, more so how it relates to writing I suppose. Anyhow, glad you could join me for this ninth installment of the column. I checked my calendar recently and found that it had been roughly sixteen weeks since this whole thing started. Glad to have each and every one of you onboard. Your comments have thus far proven invaluable. If any of you have something to say, please send it along. You can post on the SBC message board or e-mail me directly by clicking my name link above.
When I started writing this particular column, I had several random ideas in mind, but nothing really concrete so I think I will just begin writing. I find that whatever you have to say, whatever your intentions throughout any given topic, they are best given light if you don’t think about it too much. Sit under the shade of a tree with a pen and a blank piece of paper and breathe in the relatively clean suburban air and see what your subconscious comes up with. I used to force myself to write the other previous columns a few days before deadline, not realizing what damage it would do to the work itself. I’d come home after a long day, plump down in front of my computer, have some specific idea about what to write and would do my best to write about it. Well, not anymore. All I know as of now, as of this word is a very abstract concept. I’m taking a writer’s class and we are forced to carry a notebook around so we can write whatever thoughts and ideas come to mind. This time around, a random idea I had was writing about the challenge of writing and more importantly, observing one’s own work objectively. I’ll be trying something different again it seems, something attune to a random idea generator. Who knows where we’ll end up, you and I, at the end these two thousand odd words. So if you think I’m jumping around too much (incoherently so) then I have done my job right. Well, we’ll see what develops.
By any and all means, this is not going to be the most accurate, most prolific (or what have you) account of writing and reading over your work under the most objective light. Simplest explanation I can find stems from the level of subjectivity that it brings forth. Objectivity, on the other hand is frequently a challenge, worthy to be tackled by the most astute and intelligent of minds. It is then, therefore, a challenge of nightmarish proportions to view the words, on this page for instance, in such a way that proves beneficial to both the writer and give due credit to this particular piece.
Ever noticed that critics often tend to praise the person behind the work, rather than giving credit to the meaning behind the words itself? However, how does one come to recognize the work itself and not the working mind behind it? Can it be done? Three questions that may rise heated debate if dwelled upon. However, an awards ceremony would prove excessively bland without the fanfare, without the individual being recognized for ‘writing it down’. Imagine: “And the award for best new novel goes to the examination of the love-hate relationship in The Three Eyed Fish.” It sounds ludicrous and it is, but it raises an important question. What is important? The work itself or the person behind the work expressing what the work is about? What are we really recognizing? What deserves to be? All this however doesn’t change the fact that it’s all about perspective.
The Canadian national newspaper “The Globe And Mail” for instance, has a simple three-word slogan that embodies what they’re all about: Perspective Is Everything. I find something like that very true to life when relating anything at all in the human imagination. Wars are fought, people are starving and dying all around us (well, maybe not in the North American plastic paradise), and to a lesser extent awards are given to a mind rather than an idea itself and the words that fill your notebook or stories all exist on that one principle. Perspective Is Everything. A subjective perspective nonetheless.
Subjectivity it seems cannot be avoided. Human beings are made up of a single self. You know yourself and that’s pretty much it. I have some friends I consider the best of the best of all the people I’ve met in my life, but how much do I really know them? Come to think of it, how much do we know ourselves, how much can we know? It is as if however much I tell you something, if you perceive it as ill logic then I can’t do or say anything to alter the depth of your perceptions. This brings up the question; how much influence do I have over you and you over me? And keeping this in mind then, can there then be subjective objectivity? Can one separate oneself willingly and intentionally from one’s own expectations of a particular person or a particular piece of writing and judge it only as it is being presented?
I believe that is indeed possible.
Rhetorical answer after rhetorical answer. Where the ‘solution’ to the questions has no set path, but must be interpreted individually through the use of subjective perspective. That’s the only thing we’ve got for us. Problem all lies in the state of mind, especially so with your own writing. I’ve found a certain comforting connection that flows from an abstract idea in my head to the words you now read on this page. It is this connection, this care and love that endanger all writers alike. It is a mindset, buried deeply within my subconscious that festers a powerful bond. It is then, if you wish to succeed in improving the overall quality of your work imperative that you cast this bond aside. If not for your own personal sake, then do it for the inanimate credibility of the writing itself. If you care so much about it, then you have to learn to separate yourself and let go. Think of a piece you have gladly labored over for days on end as its own entity and with independent life. You can get close, but never too close. Too close is damaging. Too close hurts. Sure, you put the idea on the page, but so what?
That idea is but a reflection, a glimpse (or what have you) of theme, of meaning. It’s not specific detail. Ask yourself “How much do I consider before writing that next word?” If you are akin to my own way of doing things, then the words just seem to evaporate from every orifice, and inevitably (if executed logically) takes on a life of its own; beginning with the first letter of the first word and ending with the last of the last. Stephen King says that stories are but artifacts, buried since the beginning of time. It is up to you as a writer to find them and tell the way you see it. When King wrote “The Stand”, an apocalypse story of sorts, he chose to focus on certain characters in that world rather than others. Some died, others left behind and forgotten. The way he chose to tell you the story, he believes (like every writer should) that he made a right choice to focus on the characters and plots that he did. I find once I begin writing, the words come as naturally as thinking the thought itself. The key to this is to keep on writing. Never stop. As soon as you do, you’ve lost it. Like this column for instance. In the beginning I had no idea where it was going. I thought it was going to be a disjointed mess. What I chose to focus on may not be all intentional but when all is said and done it may as well be. There’s a quote from Margaret Atwood’s novel, “The Robber Bride” that goes something like this: “When you alter yourself, the alterations become the truth.” What is truth, what is a lie? It’s all what you believe in, it’s all what they’ve come to let you believe. That, for instance, is what religion is all about. Influencing thought in such a way to make it sound and appear believable, but alas that is a story (and a whole other argument) best left for a future column.
Easiest way to separate yourself from your work, to be in all essence of the word ‘subjectively objective’ is to read things over after you’ve finished writing something and eliminate the words, sentences or paragraphs that you are most attached to. If you’re anything like me and you find that exceedingly difficult, then don’t eliminate it right away. Go over it with a pen and bracket it and let someone else (someone with a truly objective view) tell you what they think about it. You never know, sometimes the ideas that you are attached to will stay, sometimes they won’t. After the preliminary edits that you yourself have done or someone else have done, put it away for a while and come back to it with fresh perspective. Never dress up your writing, it usually comes off as forced. If you find that nothing more can be done with a particular idea, then either bury it and forget about it or give it to someone else. There are so many good ideas out there; you just have to find them and when you do hold onto them and with time, patience and a lot of typing you will have done it justice. If you care about it enough, then it’ll show. Hope some of this has helped. As an aspiring writer looking to get my work published and read by the masses, I am still trying to figure out how to best play the game.
Writing truly is a subjectively objective nightmare. Keep in mind you can only polish so much. Underneath all the polishing lies what really is important. Not to anyone else, but to you.
Next column: Comics, comics and more comics. A refreshing change from three contemplative columns in a row. Who knows what else will turn up? A little bit of food for thought perhaps? I don’t seem to go very far without it. But, as I said who knows.
Oh, before I forget here’s a little paragraph I found interesting:
“Do you know why books such as this one are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”
- Ray Bradbury
Have a great week and I’ll see you in two.
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