Last night I was talking with some friends and on multiple occasions each of the writing proclivities of my friends in the room and I go brought up. There was sort of a pre-approved consensus that one friend was the poetry guy, one guy was the short story/fiction/narrative guy, one guy was the song writer and I was the anecdote/essayist/non-fiction prose guy of the lot.
This wasn’t to say, “Oh, well you’re this and he’s this, there is no way you guys can or ever write anything else,” but the general point or acceptance seemed to be that we each tend to write in these mediums because they are our strengths and the mode we prefer to write in.
In the brief span of some hours, I’ve managed to find the time and energy to think on that some more. I don’t remember consciously thinking about it, which must mean that it has been eating away at my brain for a little while. Something about it didn’t resonate properly with me. It is only as of an hour ago that I realized I disagree with the sentiment.
It kind of relates to something Dr. C went over today in Venture Planning about virtue. Virtue is basically the active representation of ones character, thus (and in this case, in business) actions and decisions people make are defined by virtues. These virtues aren’t something that is a conscious process, but something that has been cemented as part of that person’s character over a lifetime of previous decisions and actions. In the case of the class, the example was people who have conducted poor business practices (like a Madoff or Enron crew) didn’t have the entire internal process before deciding it, they likely just did it, because that is how they’ve done things throughout their entire lives.
I don’t think the previous paragraph will relate a whole lot to the rest of the writing, but I think my thought there is that I wish the concept of virtue applied to productive output. In this case, I don’t believe it does.
I don’t write in a narrative format very often. Though I did with moderate regularity when I was younger, I rarely write poetry anymore. Even when I do, I don’t consider it poetry. Only recently in my life have I started writing songs, despite it being part of my lineage, but just because I don’t do these things, doesn’t mean that I don’t gravitate for them.
Let me drill straight into the core here: I don’t think the format that you usually see me write on this blog, or other avenues is my strongest point as a writer. In fact, I think it is one of my weakest. Maybe my best practiced, and also the one I have easiest access to, but not my strongest. If you asked me what I thought my strongest suit in this deck of cards was, without any hesitation I’d say it was narrative. The thing is, I almost never write in that format. When I do, I don’t often finish what I start (even if I finish a draft, I don’t revise, rewrite, etc.). And even when I get that far, I almost never let anyone who doesn’t have my set of eyes see it.
Maybe you don’t agree with me and are thinking, “Well, James, if it really was your strongest area, you would involuntarily do it more often.”
Look, I don’t know if I could accurately identify why I don’t, I think there is an element to these other forms that is much more personal than just writing personal accounts and and egotistical essays. In this format, all I need are a couple of ideas and a vocabulary and I can express everything I need. It isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but I do enjoy it. In something like a narrative, I still have the foundation of ideas, as far as themes go, but I also have to have ideas for the narrative, as well as direction and an entire different set of tools for structure.
When I write something like this, it is like someone giving me a box of bike parts and saying, “You. Build 2 wheel machine!”
When I write a narrative or anything of the like, it is more like someone giving me a couple tools and a gun to rob people and dropping me off in the unnatural median between the forest and the city, then instructing me, “You! Go build something resemble spaceship. Use what find around you,” (don’t ask why I decided to make this part in stereotypical caveman speech). Definitely more daunting.
So now you might be arguing, “well, James, that is my point. You aren’t better at it/suited for it because you don’t want to undertake all of the creative and structural responsibility involved.”
I still disagree. Sure, I tend to write like this because it is convenient, but that isn’t the ultimate factor by any means. I might have said this above. If so, I reiterate, it is more personal. Not just for me, but for the audience (even if there isn’t any). If I write a story, the person reading it can immediately be turned off because they don’t like how I decided to tell it, or a ton of other reasons that come down to taste. If I write an essay on my opinions on planking, you can conclude that it isn’t well-written and my ideas are crap, but even if you have a strong negative response to it, you aren’t really going to take force against the creative decisions I made, because my entire purpose was the spread ideas and opinions. Like I said, assembling the bike. I can invent just about anything and call it a spaceship with the world around me, and maybe if it doesn’t resemble something from Star Trek, you won’t like it.
I almost feel like the act of reading profusely, as well as considering yourself as member of a particular craft skews your expectations of things. Oh wait, I absolutely believe that, and I think most sane people do. That, unfortunately, is just really annoying. Over the past few years I’ve changed a lot in my perspective on how I react to creative craft. There is still a part of my that will always have an emotional reaction to what I consume, but there is an equal partner in that which acknowledges the risks that person took to craft something, let it leave their head into something that others consume and ultimately (and most crazily) share it with someone outside of themselves. I’ve watched, heard and read things of which are qualitatively bad from both perspectives of refinement and whether or not there is anything in there I can personally enjoy it, but you’d best bet your house that I still appreciate it.
Who am I to judge anything?
I’m really tired and I lost a lot of stream from my first couple paragraphs from now, and I also have to wrap this up due to time constraints, but I think I got a couple points across enough.
I don’t think that my actions define who I am creatively, because my actions are gated. As the gatekeeper, I choose who sees what part of my creative estate. You could say that I am flawed in my abilities as a poet, lyricist/songwriter or anything else if I don’t choose to be confident or comfortable enough to share that part of myself. I won’t agree with you nor will I argue against that, but the point still stands, I don’t think you can necessarily bracket someone in to something because of the unseen. Maybe you do see all there is to see, or maybe there are other hidden strengths. The point is, there is no way of telling. Even as myself, I don’t know all of my talents and hopeless faults.
It is a shame I only had 40 minutes and a poorly functioning mind to write this, but this is the medium that I feel comfortable ‘settling’ with.