Fiction Writing Workshop 3: I Stand Corrected

My beautiful skyline in Chicago

          My beautiful skyline in Chicago

The more I read, the more I learn, the more I realize I have so much farther to go. It’s like a view from the bottom of a building looking up: the closer you get, the taller and more daunting the building seems. But there you are, closer to climbing it, until you’re standing right next to it’s expansive wall, and you think, “Good God, what have I done?”

In high school, I knew I wasn’t vey well read. It didn’t really bother me because I still read a lot– just not good books, necessarily. Reading the classics was like pulling teeth; reading quality contemporary literature was just not a thing on my mind. Then I started to become more serious about writing, and reading became the paramount deficit in my education. I snatched up everything: Faulkner, Shakespeare, Bronte, Voltaire, Chaucer, Spenser, Wilde, Dickens, Balzac, Miller, Steinbeck, Emerson, Baldwin, Poe, Elliot, Morrison, and need I go on?

So I read all these books and composed my views of fiction:

  1. Character is the be-all end-all.
  2. I couldn’t care less about plot.
  3. The writer should have negative impact on the work.

I knew these views were extreme, but you must realize that they weren’t voluntary–they were born from the post-structuralist literature I was reading and the wiggidy-wack post-deconstructionism I was told to aim for. So, naturally, I decided to blow the concept of literature up, but failed horribly in that I was around 50 years too late (hundreds of years late, if we bring Keats into this).

The time period from which my work would be considered "cutting-edge" and "ahead of the curve"

The time period from which my work would be considered “cutting-edge” and “ahead of the curve”

I’ve been riding out this writer’s crisis for about a year now, certain in my inability to innovate radically without a firm grasp on current literature, and uncertain of my ability to get through the classics in the next 60 years, let alone hit up the best sellers list now. There was also the tricky issue of timing and creation; writers have to get just ahead of the curve, not a hundred years ahead of their time, or they’ll be overlooked, forgotten, and die with their own work. You can’t be on the curve, either, because then you’re just like everyone else. So the writer needs to find that sweet spot. By sweet, I mean as mind-blowing explosive and amazing as a sentence by Virginia Woolf, and by spot, I mean an infinitesimally small period at the end of one of Hemingway’s sentences.

And even here, in my mixed metaphor and simile, I’ve exposed my datedness. Why is everyone I’m just learning to love dead?




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