Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Keepin it real"

More than just a few times I have reached the end of a fluent and powerful writing session only to find as I reviewed my material, that it just didn't fit.  I've gone on in other posts about the importance of finding that pure place from which to pull creative expression, and about how if it is real, then it will have the power to affect the desired audience.  The question I would like to address in this post, is as a fiction writer, why am I not obligated, in the name of "keeping it real", to include every such powerful product of my creativity in the manuscripts I hope to make public?
     Three closely related considerations have helped me in my filtering process.  First; where are the ideas coming from?  If my story is generally inspirational, uplifting and positive, does what I have just written resonate those feelings?  Second; am I writing for my target audience, or could the instance in question be the result of my momentary need to exercise a personal demon or two.  Sometimes when writing fiction, I find my subconscious has taken over, spitting out imagery that though therapeutic for me, even though it may turn out as really good writing, would more than likely turn the stomach of most of my readers.  Lastly, in the end, what is my desired affect?  What do I want people to gain by reading what I have to say?
     Have you ever been to an art show, or in a concert, or poetry reading where the artist clearly has no concern for providing you, his or her viewer/listener, with an enjoyable experience?  Instead, you feel like you're being dragged through a swirling current of their private and very indulgent passions, good or bad, with little if anything in substance worth holding on to.  Some forms of art rightly slide more in this direction, where passions, feelings, prejudices and the like are the stuff of which it is made, and its intended audience is comprised of individuals or groups sympathetic to those things.  When the reading audience, however, seeks their escape in a book, whether it be to the light and happy or dark and mysterious, they have the right to expect that what they read will not only take them there, but reward them there as well.  While writing "Trail Of The Damned", my follow up book to "Search For Yesterday", I introduced readers to "pre Kid" little Cole Lambert, and as I progressed into the story, I became so deeply entrenched in making real the tragic event leading up to the destruction of Kid's home and family that in re-reading it, it literally made me physically ill.  Later, I allowed the story to lead itself a little too far as I neared the climax, and found myself heart broken over the death of a character I had no intention of losing.  It felt so real though, evoking emotion from me so painful and dramatic that I was compelled to change my intended story just to include it.
     Thank goodness for the long process of proof reading, editing and publishing, because had I not had time to let it marinate I may have published "Trail Of The Damned" as it was, thus treating hopeful and happy readers to a horrific tragedy at its end.  Sometimes the words come so fast when we're in a groove, that our fingers can scarcely keep up.  The emotion in such creative sessions is powerful, sometimes so much so that we feel bound, committed, and controlled by our craft, rather than the other way around.  "Keepin it real", as many artists with a cause or message say in order to justify their offensive material, is not at all what we should be about.
     We must never forget that we are the artists, the masters of our craft, and our art only gains its expression based on our ability and good pleasure to arrange and display it.  It's not alive, has no independant thought or feelings, but lives only so far as we give it life.  I don't suggest giving up those rare and passionate experiences in creating, only just calling them what they are, because for an artist they are surreal and beautiful.  I do suggest, however, for the benefit of loyal readers, that they be laid aside, in lu of subject mater which most often they are counting on being anything but "Real".
     How do we know?  It is a fine line in descriptive writing that separates tragedy and detailed gore, happiness and sickening bliss, romantic passion and literary porn, darkness and degrading filth.  For a writer, "Keeping it real" often leads to writing too much and going too far, neither of which gets our desired result which should be rewarding our readers for their investment of cash, time and emotion.
     I go by this rule, ...say it out loud to yourself before making it public.  With respect to writing, I ask after re-reading it, if what I've written seems like first and last it is intended for me, ...if yes, then I keep it to myself.  In order to share my creative voice with others, my purpose must be unmistakably aimed at providing a worthwhile reading experience for them, leaving the creative process for me, ...as my reward.
     For those of you who don't consider yourselves writers, or artists of any kind, keeping another's  idea of "Real" isn't always right for you either.  Be true to what you think is best and you'll usually do the right thing.

Have a terrific week

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