Is Fiction More True Than Nonfiction?

Last fall, one of my friends in my writer’s group told me he was trying to read 40 books in a year. That inspired me to do the same this year. I tried to add some variation so as to not become complacent in my reading. This survey has taken me from popular books like The Hunger Games, classics like Of Mice and Men, to the poetry of A.E Houseman, and finally to this book, Tolkien Man and Myth A Literary Life by Joseph Pearce, which is a thorough study of J.R.R. Tolkien and the famous writing group the Inklings. It also centers around the idea of “myth” in the Tolkien sense. Here is what Pearce has to say about the idea of myth in the preface:

“For most modern critics a myth is merely another word for a lie or a falsehood, something which is intrinsically not true. For Tolkien, myth had virtually the opposite meaning. It was the only way that certain transcendent truths could be expressed in intelligible form,” (Pearce, XIII).

I would even go as far as to say myths validate other truths like, fathers should be good, rulers should be stewards and not tyrants of their people, and that individuals should not put limits on following what is right and good – can be best expressed in fiction. The reason is, when we see something as it should be in reality we immediately become suspicious. “They must have dark secrets they keep well hidden,” some may say. “They cannot actually enjoy being a father, or a husband, they are waiting for the right time to bolt,”. However, if you show the very same thing in a story of fiction or “myth”, we can believe it.

Indeed, I am writing fiction and cannot help but think that, although I am not moving into the realm of allegory, the reason we writers write is important. There is usually something being said about something even in the simplest of stories. Even if you did not deliberately mean to, and I can say that I certainly did not start out with philosophical underpinnings, you find as you step back and get outside of your work, you are not just writing about people, but significant things of the human experience. If I were to examine my own writing it would be obviously about revenge, and the importance of remembering history so as not to repeat it, and lastly, and more subtly, forgiveness in the profound sense.

Understanding what you write and why you write may not be significant to you. However, I find it helpful to always be orienting myself to my story, and where my characters are going and what sort of “myths” I am telling. Critics are always going to be looking for themes, and they genuinely sprout up along the way, it might be good to identify them as you work out your stories.

Novel/ Family Update:

On September 24th at 11:48am, Clara Mae was born, my second daughter. Some writers out there might be lamenting the fact that my time to write may be obliterated for the next few months (that very well could be true) and the novel I wished to finish may now be on a permanent hold. Not so. In fact, I don’t think I would have the idea for the next chapter in my book had I not visited the hospital. This lends to my suspicion that as the deepness of life grows (college, marriage, family, etc.) the more your well of creativity is stretched wider and is able to be filled with even more life, enabling the writer to draw from more experiences to be better equipped to share their magnificent stories.

An Update On Writing

Over Labor Day weekend I met with a few friends to write. My goal, at the time, was to finish the second draft of my novel. Typically, my friends and I spend Labor Day weekend competing in the 3 Day Novel competition, or at least begin a first draft of something new.  However, after about 30 or so hours of writing that weekend, I simply couldn’t continue. I was like a plane that had just run out of fuel. I could coast on for a little while, but sooner or later I would come crashing to the ground and I’d have to either rewrite everything or simply delete it, wasting hours of time.

Since that time, if I’m honest, I’ve had little desire to write. The fuel of creativity was utterly spent after editing and writing and rewriting so intensely. At noon on September 5th I felt I was at the end of my work, roughly six chapters short and I was fine with that. It grew to the point where I felt disgusted by every word I put on the page. It was drivel, my inner critic said. Absolutely horrible.

It was then I knew I needed to take a step back and allow space and time to repair the damage I had done to my mind. Writing is to the mind like a sport is to the body. You only have so much energy before you simply cannot go on. I felt, during the weekend, I went to that point and eighteen miles beyond.

Now, as you may well have guessed, I feel it coming back. The enjoyment of words, the thrill of a new blogpost, the desire to see my characters finish the path I’ve set them on has returned. I have the energy to complete the last few chapters of my novel, molding characters and story lines into their final dramatic form. I hope, with great amounts of effort, to be done by Thanksgiving if I work on a chapter every week.

How are things going for you?

Challenge – finish 1000 words this weekend?

When You’ve Lost the Writer’s Groove

When a writer says, “I just can’t find the groove,” anyone who has every written a novel, short story, or article of any sort knows exactly what they are talking about. It has been called many things: rhythm, pulse, tempo – whatever it is that keeps the writer moving, keeps their fingers to the keyboard or pen to the page in a way that is both satisfying and liberating. It flows, like waters breaking through a dam, surging, cascading, dancing all over the countryside in your mind. It is the culmination of your idea, your story, your characters, your plot, your unequivocal love for language, unleashed.

Unfortunately, for me, and perhaps for you, it is a hard thing to find. Writing time has the tendency to evaporate, and there are only so many mornings you can force yourself out of the bed in the wee hours before the thrill of your tale becomes dull. It is no longer easy. It is no longer joyful. If there was a surge of ideas somewhere in your being you lost the key to that place a long, long time ago. I think it is okay to admit this. It is alright to say that you are in a rut. It is not writers block that I am talking about, I am talking about a loss of energy or gumption and, it might be shameful to admit, desire.

You may find, as I have, that releasing these thoughts to a journal or blog can very well be a way through all of this. Just to have gained traction in any sort of writing, helps, and it helps a lot. It is like stretching your muscles before a game, or going over note cards before a test. It puts you in a mode. It prepares you for the mental battle.

It is important to understand how we work, and more importantly how we can overcome these stoppages in our work. For me, its just to find some way to continue the writing process. For you it might not be writing but reading something different than what you normally read or going through thewriter, Writer’s Digest, Poet’s & Writers, or some other writing magazine or book to be inspired. Or it could be  filling your creativity well by doing what the Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron instructs, by taking yourself on a writer’s date. Whatever it is, find it. Meet head on. Battle through it, keep going, keep moving, keep your story pressing on and don’t give up. It may be, just as you thought you were at the end of your story, you burst through the clouds and find yourself in the glorious light of another finished page.

Early J.K.Rowling Interview, “I’m Shocked At It’s Success”

Here is an early, terribly down to earth, video interview of beloved author J.K. Rowling. In it you can sense her eagerness to write and her commiserating statement that she dreamed (as most who write do) of supporting herself through writing.

As of this video she was writing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. You may be intrigued to hear that she says there will be more books of some sort after Harry is done and that she fancies being “Big in Finland”, in a very modest way. May you be inspired by her humility and be filled with a desire to place words on the page.