Thursday, February 10, 2011

A word (or three) from our sponsors...

From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.’ Martin Heidegger, 1935

Some great views here on Wicked Writers this week – that is what is so rewarding about sharing this space… diversity of opinion… you cannot beat it for stirring the creative juices!

We have Sharon writing for posterity (and the little guy in blue – what d’ya think? future President? Must be!)… And I love the whole statement of purpose thing…

Then there’s Greg – aside from razzing C.J. – writing for one of the most critical, single-minded, stubborn, unyielding audiences ever: the self!!! My hat off to you, Greg… I couldn’t cope with my own critique…

Then C.J. … what brilliance… what strategy! She secretly became her audience! By getting to know who they were, what they liked and what they disliked, she was able to throw off the constraints of their existence when she sat down to write as a reader!

And my take?

I do not believe I consciously write to, or within, a specific genre. I am a poor reader as a writer… flitting from this to that… often starting but never finishing a text. However, I do believe I write for an audience – I just don’t know who they are.

This is paradoxical. On the one hand, I am denying that a section of society exists which can be characterised by a set of literary expectations that may guide my writing. (I don’t identify with a genre.) On the other hand, I want to write in a manner that will appeal to the literary expectations of a section of society sufficient to provide such an audience. (I want to sell my books!)

So how do I resolve this paradox?

In essence, I do not know for whom I am writing but I do know that I am writing for someone. Does that someone call to me? No. If there was a call, I should listen and I might then at least have an opportunity to determine who the caller might be.

This is where I get all philosophical… (Bear with me!)

The French Philosopher, Sartre, wrote:

“To the extent that I strive to determine the concrete nature of the (social system) and my place therein I transcend the field of my own experience. I am concerned with a series of phenomena which on principle can never be (fully) accessible to my intuition, and consequently I exceed the lawful limits of my own [narrative] knowledge. I seek to bind together experiences that will never be my experiences and consequently this work of construction and unification can in no way serve for the unification of my own experience.”

I see the world as I see it… this provides the framework for my vision, for the explication of my narrative story. But if I want an audience to buy my books, I have to present a world that will appear to them as I will never, truly, be able to see it… I am creating a fictional world which, as Sartre would say, “transcends my experience”. That world will never be “fully accessible” to me. This, to my mind is where the art in what we do, as writers, lies. We must reveal to an audience, who ever they are, something that we ourselves cannot see. And that “something” must engage them. And it is not an easy task.

Are C.J., Greg, and Sharon wrong? Most certainly not… C.J., when she writes, may be disinterested in her audience, but she is not “uninterested”; her investment as a reader in her genre allows her now to step away from that audience. Likewise, Sharon’s writing for a future which cannot yet be specified shows similar disinterest. Greg, also, through learning to become detached from the specific audience he wrote his early work for, has become disinterested.

But not one of us is uninterested in our audience of readers.

If you like, disinterest, as concept, is a move of focus from the specific to the general. It is a concept that allowed another famous philosopher, Heidegger, to look at Van Gogh’s painting of “Old Shoes with Laces” and see the toils of a working-woman in the fields. He held no care for whether or not the shoes were really those of an old women, or just a pair of random shoes Van Gogh bought off a market stall for the purpose of painting his next still-life study.

And a final word?

In 1873, John Ruskin wrote, ‘…the art is greatest which, conveys to the mind of the [audience], the greatest number of the greatest ideas…’. As writers, our written work should engage with our readers (who ever they might be, now and in the future), producing within them the greatest ideas about the worlds we create.

We do not want to spend too long, trying to get inside our readers heads, making assumptions on their behalf. They can read; they can decide for themselves; they are intelligent (we hope). All we should give them is possibility.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What a meal you've given us, David. I feel the same way about the variety of this group, and how good it is to be part of it.

    I belong to a critique group with multiple genres, and, although it's been advised against many times, I find it wonderful and refreshing. Who knows where the writing will lead us? God forbid I should write mystery and you should go into a romance vein. That would be something to see!

    I loved your last line, "all we should give them is possibility" and completely agree. To me, that was the kernel in your piece.

  3. I have to second Sharon on that one (*Blech) Excuse me... wow - what a meal you have prepared us to feast on.

    Truly, I had to re-read your post four times - not because you were hard to understand - but because you were so deep. I didn't want to miss a single crumb of your intellect.

    I'm not sure I can post any thing that doesn't resemble a nonsense rambling at this moment. I can, however, stand and applaud you. Kudos, David.

    Now, I must go take a headache powder and lay down. My head hurts because you have made me think too much today! (*grin)

    I am not complaining - merely stating a fact. Be well, my friend.

  4. Argh! What is it with the British and their need for philosophical pining?

    Good article, though. But, this just shows why I never quote Sartre. No snappy one-liners.

    But, you have given me food for thought and made me put away the Trivial Pursuit/Jeopardy kind of information gathering in favor of more substantive thinking.

  5. Hi Sharon, George, Greg...

    It must have been my week for deep thinking... I have even written a poem about an orchid in a desert this week!

    Sharon, did I ever tell you I am working on a love story? :)

    And Greg, you are so right... no snappy one liners in Sartre. Pass me another cold towel and some spare headache powders if you have any left, George!

    Take care, y'all

  6. I'm late to the party, but I was moved by the insightfulness of the piece. I never thought of myself as disinterested in what the reader likes, more disinterested in what the industry likes! But your definitions at the end made sense as well. I'm very interested in the reader, but I also write what I want to read in the genre.

  7. Hi C.J, great to have your comments whenever... I love the concept of disinterest... I also believe that interest must come before disinterest - it's a sort of distancing or stepping back from interest. :)