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February 20th, 2010


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05:48 pm - Question for fellow writers/artists
I won't bore you with the backstory to this question, but:

Have you ever really struggled with the thought that you may have nothing worthwhile to say? That your own point of view, as it would be expressed in your work, is neither interesting nor important?

Or is that just me?
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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:maychorian
Date:February 21st, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
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Only all the time.

You get told so many things as a young writer going to a college for a writing degree, and the going out in the world trying to find a job in your field. It's tough. They say you're too young, you don't really have anything to say, you should spend time traveling around the world to get more experience (hahahaha, do they think I have money to burn?), and on and on and on.

But I have found that there ARE people who want to hear the stories I have to tell. I draw a lot from my own experiences to write about kids, families, sibling relationships, the things friends will do for each other. The deeper the story draws from myself, the more people tell me that it meant something to them.

I think we all have something important to say. We just have to figure out what it is.

Edited at 2010-02-21 02:07 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
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Right. I've been there. It's just that being 30 and either still not knowing what I have to say, or having no way to say it to anyone (except myself and God) is getting really old.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:February 21st, 2010 02:20 am (UTC)
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All. The. Time.

Actually, I think if you don't think it, you end up becoming one of those strident blowhards who really doesn't have anything worthwhile to say.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 22nd, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
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Heh. That's...probably a good point, especially if you're writing nonfiction.
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From:rj_anderson
Date:February 21st, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
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Not exactly. I do believe what I have to say is interesting (at least to me) and also potentially important, because it's based in spiritual and experiential truth; but what I struggle with is the worry that I'll either never be able to communicate it in a way that is compelling to others or even makes sense to them.

Or else that people will get the message, but then they'll just say, "So what? I knew that already."
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I think that last line is mostly what I'm afraid of. That I will put in the work only to have it fall into the void of everything that everyone has said before--no use to anyone, except maybe (maybe!) me.
[User Picture]
From:fpb
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
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If the story itself is worth telling, that will not happen. The story is part of the message; it is the message. Whatever else you may get from reading Hamlet or Keats, you get Hamlet or Keats. If you have written a story that people remember, in a style that imposes itself on their memories, you have also given them a new thought. And a source of further new thoughts.
[User Picture]
From:ladybrick
Date:February 21st, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
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I think I worry more that I'll run out of stories to tell.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
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....

I wish I was you, then.
[User Picture]
From:fpb
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
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If you have stories to tell, you have things to say.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
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I feel I have so many fewer stories than most writers I know, or at any rate that they are smaller and less interesting (less extreme, less deep) than others, that this is not a terribly encouraging thought.
[User Picture]
From:ladybrick
Date:February 21st, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
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It's kind of like I'm more concerned about writing a good story than having a actual message, at least in the early drafts.

Which probably means I've already committed to selling out and writing horribly shallow things ^_~
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
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Heh. It's just that people like you and Kim intimidate me a lot--I am not the sort of writer who has a brain full of weird and wonderous and fantastical ideas all the time. Even though that's what I love to read.
[User Picture]
From:ladybrick
Date:February 21st, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
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And yet you always seem to have way more projects going at a time than I do. I wouldn't worry too much :)
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From:fpb
Date:February 22nd, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
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Agreed.
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From:izhilzha
Date:February 22nd, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
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Noted. :)
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From:yahtzee63
Date:February 21st, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
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As long as the story is fun for the reader/listener/etc., I don't worry about "important." I'm here to entertain. That doesn't mean I don't care about what I'm saying, but I guess it's the difference between importance and responsibility.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
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I guess the difference is that I feel that I am here not only to entertain but also to communicate. What I love most in stories is the sense of connection with someone who is either very like me or very different--the deeper understanding of myself through someone else, or the new understanding of something beyond my current experience, and I don't know if I have either of those to truly offer.
[User Picture]
From:yahtzee63
Date:February 22nd, 2010 06:22 am (UTC)
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You can communicate "to." When writing, it's very hard to communicate "with," at least outside of fandom, or even there on a deeper level. There is a communion between writer and reader, but I have come to believe it is almost always the reader's sole privilege to experience; she alone can really understand what has resonated with her, and why, and it may be for reasons and in ways that the author never imagined.

For (inadequate but nonetheless accurate) example, I am quite sure that the writers of "Alias" had no intention of creating something as meaningful as the show as to me. That does not change what I got from it, love in it and will always feed from in it.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 22nd, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
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True. That was something I both savored and was annoyed by when I was studying English Lit: half of my fellow students loved this idea so much they would pretend to see things in the text that weren't there even by a stretch of the imagination, whereas I enjoyed seeing how well I could support what I was seeing from the text. (This skill has served me well in fandom meta discussions.)

Your point is well made, though; writing or art of any kind is, in the end, a sheer gamble by the author/creator. I'm quite certain that the writers of Life on Mars (UK) didn't mean to create a main character who is so much like me it's a little bit terrifying...but it's a great, layered show, and that's one of the things that *I* have found in it. I guess that's what I should work on, then: writing that sort of layered excellence.
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From:sallymn
Date:February 21st, 2010 06:47 am (UTC)
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Believe me, I am not being sarcastic but totally serious when I say "doesn't everyone?"

But the simple fact is, we don't know what will resonate with others, so all we can do is be as honest as we can...

Or tell our little lies well :)
[User Picture]
From:bugeyedmonster
Date:February 21st, 2010 07:11 am (UTC)
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Oh, yeah. Often.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:February 21st, 2010 09:23 am (UTC)
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Yes and no.

After reading some crap Christian Fantasy novels, I don't want to fall into the trap of trying to force my work to tell "important" things. Because if the message is more important than the work, then one will not succeed with either the message or the work. If one is true to the work, then the truths in the work will be seamlessly part of it, and more easily digested. I can write about what is important to me, and if it's something from my heart, then maybe my heart will speak to your heart, if I'm really lucky.

As for "interesting", again, I can only figure what is interesting to me. I can hope it is interesting to others, but I can't tell, not unless I ask them, not unless they tell me. Certainly, if I find something boring, then my audience will find it boring also, because my boredom will leak out on the paper.

Do I have nothing worthwhile to say? On bad days, I think I am talking to emptiness. On good days, I don't worry about it.

The worth of the gift is the love with which it is given. Our whole lives are like children's drawings in comparison with the artistry of God. But God loves our children's drawings anyway.
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From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
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I wasn't writing about "messages" per se. I'm sure you know me well enough to know that I abhor attempts to preach in fiction. I guess I'm just very unsure that anything I have to say will benefit anyone else; and I have never yet come tot the conclusion that I actually have enough good stories to tell that what I have to "say" within them doesn't matter.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:February 21st, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
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{hugs} Sorry if I implied that you wanted to preach. I guess I took from the initial post that you might feel guilty for not preaching.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to write like C. S. Lewis. Not because he wrote Christian Fantasy, but because his Christianity breathed out of his pores and into everything he wrote. To take care of the work and let the message take care of itself.

I guess I'm just very unsure that anything I have to say will benefit anyone else
You are a human being; you are part of the human condition: of course what you have to say, if it was something that was meaningful to you, it will be meaningful to someone else out there.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 22nd, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
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No, it's okay, I see how you could get that from my post. :)

Thank you; I hope what you say is true. I'm just starting to realize what a gamble being an artist is, and giving up control (or the illusion of it, hah) is not at all easy. Pray for me?
[User Picture]
From:fpb
Date:February 21st, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)
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Just write. If you have something to say, it will get said - by some sort of unexpected accident between working out the plot and revising the writing for effect. Look at Agatha Christie. No writer ever approached writing more purely as a task to be overcome and a skill to be learned, and yet she ended up producing a body of work that is not only significant and enduring, but that expresses a definite viewpoint that is both unique and universally understandble. Of course, it can often be said that it is universally understandable because it is commonplace; often, but not always. Some meditations on evil, as in Pale Horse, and some visions of beauty, as in Hallowe'en Party and the Harley Quinn stories, are really memorable, and the whole thing lives. What I am saying is: if you approach your work as a craft, the viewpoint will come out and may well turn out to be something respectable. If you worry about the viewpoint first, however much right you may have, you are putting the cart before the horse.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. I did not expect to be so well reminded of the best writing advice I ever got, from you. (That's meant as a compliment, sir; I still tend to remember that you write non-fiction blog stuff before I recall that you also write fiction.)
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From:fpb
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
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er... sir... who? (looks around himself anxiously)
Seriously, thank you.
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From:amberdulen
Date:February 21st, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
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Once in a while, but then I remind myself how much I love art with no importance, say cheerfully to myself, "You're such a hack!" and get on with the work.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 21st, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Wish I could do that. Perhaps it should be a goal for me. :)
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From:amberdulen
Date:February 22nd, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
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Well, I can't in good conscience actually advocate resigning yourself to hackery, but I find "get on with the work" solves a whole sackful of writer neuroses. :)
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From:snickelish
Date:March 5th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
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Coming to this late, but I'm still at the stage where I'm trying to work out what I'm trying to say. Worthwhile or not, I'm still not sure what stories I'm trying to tell.

However, my real justification for writing this comment is the following quote by Lewis:
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:March 5th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
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Oh, thank you for the quote, that's exactly what I needed to hear. Yes. Okay.

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