Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"There's nothing to writing...all you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed."
    ~Ernest Hemingway

There is a good deal of trust and and good deal of courage in our little circle of writers. Faced with the dark emptiness of last week, Mr. Pond and Jenna rose up in confidence, Mr. Pond with an encouraging reminder not to be too afraid in the dark, moonless nights, to learn to welcome winters, and doubts and questioning. To find and love the hidden lights of winter, the darkest nights of stillness and starlight.” Which beautifully echoes Rilke’s advice to “live the questions now” without needing answers until you are able grow into them. Jenna’s response, embracing (to an extent) and uniting the three ideas with a need for the creative process “to stave off destructive sorrow” on occasion, and a deep relationship to the written word gave me my topic this week. How much of our flesh goes in the inkpot, and how much comes back out again?

Jenna writes that her "inkpot adamantly refuses to give forth its contents unless a bit of my own flesh goes in", goes in - but what comes out? Tolstoy is lived closely in Anna Karinina's Levin, but we can see pieces of him in War and Peace as well, lived out in Pierre and Prince Andrei; Robert Heinlein pontificates through Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land. Many characters have a good deal of the writer in them somewhere, but some have none at all, and some have too much.

"A character is never the author that created him. It is quite likely, however, that an author may be all his characters simultaneously."
  ~Albert Camus

No matter how much of ourselves we write in, the character can never be fully ours. A change or too, an idealization, a missed flaw or virtue, can take the created one away from his creator, the character becomes his own person. But, if I am a good enough writer, each of my people is one I've known on the inside, one I've lived with a while. I'm often wary of stories with a main character who seems to be an idealized version of the author, Dan Brown's books come to mind, in part because it comes across as an ego trip, and in part because it's boring. Levin isn't boring because he isn't idealized, and despite being almost Tolstoy, he isn't.

"A writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a charicature."
   ~Ernest Hemingway

Amen.  When I write, my attempt is to take people from life, alter to emphasis certain aspects, and from there they grow into their own selves. In a way, writing people is a pursuit of understanding, an attempt to really know the people around us, to understand their motives. To love them simply for being.



  1. Great post! I'm very much looking forward to writing about this--it's a fascinating question. Just waiting now to see what Mr. Pond comes in with...

  2. Oh good! Thanks! Did you read Mr. Pond's?? I want to comment, but I need a chance to think first, so maybe tomorrow, we're going to watch the super-bowl at my in-law's and they have internet!!

  3. I did! It was great. And now I've got my own post written and scheduled. :D Hope you have fun watching the Super Bowl!