Sunday, March 20, 2016 10:12 PM
As with most days, I’ve had images fed into my head through the television all day, some of them entertainment, some news, some political—and I could recount them all for you, as if you hadn’t seen the same stuff—or, if you haven’t seen any of it, I could spare you the trouble—and let me tell you, some of it was troubling—so I won’t upset either of us by doing that. Then I could give you my opinion about it all, after carefully phrasing it so that I had some chance of being interesting or amusing—but there are people that do that for a living. Who am I to try to take the bread out of the mouths of professional pundits?
Most of my political posts, especially the ones about current events, are my version of the ‘primal scream’—do you remember primal scream therapy? Do they still do that? I remember thinking—that’s a great idea—most people could use a good scream every now and then. But I’m not much for screaming, so I blog about things that upset me. The only trouble is—it usually just makes me more upset. Maybe that’s why you don’t hear much about primal scream therapy any more.
I get confused, too. There’s so much—should I debate the logic of a thing, the legality of it, the constitutionality of it, the humanity of it, the practicality of it? Should I cite history? That’s always dangerous—most history doesn’t have a beginning or an end, so if you start talking about one thing, you’re bound to run up against other things that may hurt your argument more than help it. Should I argue the semantics of what’s been said? Should I argue the meaning implied by the words? Should I just call someone an idiot—or is there more to it, something that makes that someone merely ignorant or neurotic? If I write too stridently about the ‘right thing’ will I come off as too goody-two-shoes? And if I soft-peddle the ‘right thing’ will I be consigned to that ninth circle of hell reserved for the uncommitted?
Then there’s my being an atheist—should I bring that up if I think the issue is influenced by religion—or should I avoid it because it’s such a heavy thing to bring to the party? Is it better to avoid the subject for being unpleasant—or will I feel better if I’m painfully honest at all times? As with anything that involves society, there’s a part of writing that assumes you’re writing to be read—if you’re not going to think about the reader, then why are you writing? On the other hand, why are you writing if you’re not going to say what you think? Both good questions—and the question isn’t simplified any by the fact that readers’ brains come in all shapes and sizes.
I used to draw—it taught me something important. One person would look at a drawing and say they thought it great—then that person would look at another drawing and say it was a clunker. Then another person would give me the exact opposite opinions about the same two drawings. Proof positive—you can’t please everybody—there’s no such thing as good—there’s just what someone likes. Sometimes a lot of people will like the same thing—that’s just a coincidence—and there are still going to be people that don’t like a popular thing, anyway.
Well, coincidence is the wrong word—it’s not a coincidence that people like Van Gogh’s paintings or Beethoven’s compositions—but there is something ineffable about ‘great’ art—no one can really say what makes it great. They can tell you why it’s impressive, why it’s well-designed or something—but not why the whole world wakes up one morning and declares a thing great. Still, not everybody likes Beethoven—even if it’s just because they haven’t much listened to his music—and if Ludwig can’t get a 100% approval rating, then neither can you.
That’s why arts teachers are always harping on just pleasing yourself—you’re your own proof-of-concept—if you like what you write or draw or play, then you have at least one person in your audience. However many people might eventually agree with you is something you can’t really do much about.
Still, when I write, I’m inviting someone to spend time on reading me—and I know that I have to capture someone’s interest if I expect the whole thing to be read. You shouldn’t work to please an audience—but your work must have consideration for an audience—a subtle point, but it still makes it all very confusing. Worse still is the question of autobiography—when is TMI TMI? When does a story of my past involving someone I know stop being reminiscence and cross the line into defamation and libel—of them, or myself? Conversely, how much investment can I expect from readers if I’m too shy about my shortcomings or mistakes to tell the real story? If I write about bending the law here and there, am I telling a good story or am I publishing a criminal confession? It’s looks easy—writing isn’t easy.