Saturday, December 25, 2010

Writing about Writing

It has been a year now that I've been actively "blogging." I've written both in Facebook "Notes" and on my blog on BlogSpot. I've really enjoyed the writing and reminiscing, since most of what I write about are things that have happened to me or things I'm thinking about. It is great fun to put the thoughts to "paper" and hopefully share them with some friends and family and even strangers. Some times I try to be funny. Some times I try to be thoughtful. Some times I try to educate or excite interest. Some times I just want to talk about my life.

I used to get a lot more feedback on my writing. I can't tell if people are just not reading it any more, or if the content is singularly unremarkable, or I'm just being shunned for being a giant geek, nerd, pain in the tookus … which I admit I am. I tell myself that it is not important if anyone reads my words. I’m just writing it for my own personal satisfaction. But is that enough?

I follow many postings and blogs. Some just note the events of their day, and that is cool. I'm interested in what my friends and family are doing. Some post articles and links. That's cool too. I enjoy them and am often educated or entertained by them. I do those things too. But I don't find these things all that creative. I looked at a blog the other day that had an interesting artwork and graphics, but when I started to read the content, this person just posts what other people say. It was full of quotations and links. I didn’t find that very creative at all. This person is a living mimeograph machine. Is that creative? Maybe, I don’t know. Before computers I was impressed by people who could quote poems and prose and quotations, but in the age of copy and paste it is not so impressive.

I consider my notes (and my photographs too) my creative outlet. A little more creative than just commenting on my daily activities or tagging the restaurant I'm currently imbibing at (watch out — dangling participle alert). So let me say this about writing on the anniversary of these efforts.

I think that one of the more remarkable aspects of writing and publishing is that no two readers ever read the same book, even when they both have the same edition. I mean the mental pictures and assumptions will be different for each reader. Something about reading being an essential part of writing. The reader brings so much to the encounter that it is hard to just focus on the author's creation, but you must include the reader's view too. Let me explain.

We will all feel differently about a movie or a play or a painting or a song, but we have all undeniably seen or heard the same movie, play, painting or song. They are physical entities. A painting by Velázquez is purely and simply itself, as is "Blue" by Joni Mitchell. If you walk into the appropriate gallery in the Prado Museum, or if someone puts a Joni Mitchell disc on, you will see the painting or hear the music. You have no choice.

But writing does not exist without an active, consenting reader. (Possible exception is roadside signs, and Burma Shave might be acceptable as creative literature.) Oh, certainly writing has a physical presence. That is the whole point of writing, preserving thoughts for posterity — right? (Consider a book in a long-lost language that no one understands. Is it even writing if no one can ever read it and think about it? Just something else to ponder.)

What I mean is that writing requires a different level of participation. Words on paper are abstractions, and everyone who reads words on paper combines them with a different set of associations and images. I have vivid mental pictures of Don Quixote, Anna Karenina and Huckleberry Finn, but I feel confident they are not identical to the images carried in the mind of anyone else. You could argue this is true of a movie too, but I don’t think it is at anywhere near the same level. I see the actors and scenery in the movie and how the roles are interpreted, and I suspect the person in the theater next to me has about the same concept of the plot and characters as me.

But if we both read a book, how different our interpretations will be. I know when I first read “Dune” by Frank Herbert I didn’t really comprehend the sand worms very well. Even the art work on the cover didn’t help a lot. Then I saw the movie. I thought, “Now I get it.” “I know just what the worm looks like.” "Wow they're big!" Now I think that was a failure of my imagination. I should have pictured the worms in my mind better from the book. Now I just share the common view of anyone seeing them movie (actually either movie). Now I see them like worms, with rounded front ends, yet the great teeth that the book describes. Recall the Freman made knives from the teeth.

As an aside, no Dune movie has done justice to the ornithopters. The word is from the Greek for bird and wing. Obviously, they had flapping wings. The ornithopters in David Lynch's film really were unimaginative. I did enjoy Sting's performance on the other hand. What about you?

Hopefully I will get a little more feedback on these thoughts. Christmas is a busy time, and people’s thoughts are not focused on Facebook Notes or blogs — or are they? In any case, if you do chance to read these words, I would love to have some feedback and even conversation about it. What do you do that is creative? What do you think about writing?

How do you compare movies and books? Did you read "True Grit" by Charles Protis? Have you seen both movies? How do you compare the two movies, the characters, the motivations, etc.?

Do you keep a journal? Do you just post what other people say: links and videos, or do you have your own thoughts and ideas and passions? Tell me, I’d love to hear.

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