Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Conscious streaming

Closest I found to a photo of my writing: a postcard to Santa.
As you know from reading my blog, or maybe from talking with me or eavesdropping on my conversations with others (I see you), my style of rhetoric is normally characterized by stream of consciousness and a lot of personal history and reflection.

Most of my best conversations and writings start off with the same sentence: "When I was little..."

I've noticed this and as a result have tried to cut back. But at the same time, I've come to understand how great it is to have a store of applicable anecdotes in my back pocket that I can pull out at a moment's notice either to entertain or bring interest to a situation.

When I was little (oh, here I go again), I used to read very little. I liked picking up the occasional storybook, but when it came to chapter books I was a slow starter and a never-finisher. I picked up book after book, never completing one. Once I began a new novel, I'd quickly grow tired of it and find another one to read the first chapter of and then forget about.

But early on I realized that I had a favorite style of book - the mock diary entry.

One of the first books I read all the way through was a children's novel about a little girl who desperately wanted a ferret. The story was told in online blog format, all from the perspective of the girl in her unending journey toward convincing her parents to let her care for a pet.

It was a ridiculous book - so ridiculous in fact, that I don't remember any more details about it than what I've listed - but it was a style that was digestible for me. I enjoyed the quick and snappy tone that the journal-esque writing afforded the main character. Instead of being saddled with lots of observation and excess material, each word contributed directly to the story.

I've never been one for reading long, gratuitous prose that creates a vibrant scene. Though in some books I love getting to experience a place through writing, for me reading has always been made more interesting if it is an exploration of the psyche or of history. I love learning about people.

Just like the professors in photojournalism who tell their students to take pictures of human subjects rather than signs or bland locations, I firmly stand by writing that paints a picture of the human condition. A good book, by my standards, is one that can give you a sense of place, but doesn't put too much thought into that. It's real goal is to give you a sense of personal meaning.

My favorite books are like this. Jane Austen, while she does depict a lovely countryside and enormous grand estates, makes all of her novels primarily about the characters and their interactions. So much of her books are filled with dialogue that you at times feel like you're reading a script rather than a novel when you pick up one of her six.

Dialogue is the best component of literature for someone like me. It has the dynamic element of being spoken, and therefore establishing something concrete in the scene, and it also incredibly human - exclusively human. People do not talk about the weather or the lovely rolling hills of the countryside in their conversations in novels or in real life, which means moments of dialogue are for one purpose and one purpose only: advancing your understanding of the plot and the characters in some way.

As often as I try to find this style of writing in my literary choices, I try to also incorporate it into my own writing. If you catch me creating fiction - which isn't as often as I'd like, but it does happen - you will never find me glossing over events by adding in details about architecture, what people are wearing or other extraneous details. I think it comes from somewhere inside my own mind that assumes that all people have the imagination to create those images themselves.

While I have my own very established view of what events looked like, I know that even if I try to recreate that image in my writing, it will never be translated quite perfectly. In fact, it is 99.999 percent more likely to be transformed into something completely unlike what I'd envisioned.

For those writers who like to create lands and fantastical places in their pieces, it is a great exercise in trying to share their imagination with others. But I am a believer in the idea of fostering others imaginations instead of translating mine.

I could tell you that right now I'm seated in my room atop a grey comforter with white polka dots on it. There's a blue floral tote bag leaning against my bed and in front of me is my closet, all in disarray with bags and pillows and clothes thrown all over the place.

I've painted you a picture, can you see my room now? Unless you've seen in it, I don't think you can.

No matter how detailed I am in my descriptions, anyone who reads it is going to come up with their own interpretation of what I'm describing. Even I, in future readings, will remember my room differently than it actually is. It is impossible to go into enough detail to paint the exact picture of a setting.

So why should I try?

In my writing, though I've definitely included details that I feel add to the tangibility of the story like descriptors of small details such as clothing or hair or architecture or lighting, I've never striven to make this an important part of my story. It comes naturally to me to be descriptive, but it comes even more naturally to me - and to everyone, I believe - to just speak from the heart.

Good writing, in my opinion, is the kind that flows out of you like water from a sink, like music from your vocal cords, or the equivalent simile. As John Keats put it, "If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all." I think that message is true for any type of art.

For real expression, we need to let our consciousness spill out, revealing itself naturally and fully. I exercise this in my poetry, my drawing, my writing, my singing, my painting, even my reading. Because true organic creation connects you with yourself and with others better than any type of pre-meditated or over-thought work.

When I share with you - on here or however else - my purpose is to let you see and read and feel me for who I am. Unlike a lot of authors and writers, I don't plan ahead. I just let the words leak from my fingers.

When I was little I liked the mock diary entry novel. When I got older, I learned to appreciate similar-minded prose that was slightly less simplistic. When I got even more older, I discovered I could use my own love of stream of consciousness to make writings of my own that shared rather than told.

And that's what happened. And that's what you're reading. And that's what I hope you love too.

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