Monday, September 5, 2005

truth, and the pursuit of

When you know yourself, you will know how to live your life. Each step closer to self-knowledge, identity, brings you one step closer to a true understanding of your position in this life. Grey skies clear. A previously rugged road becomes the Clear Path. And the answers couldn't be closer. We carry the instructions, the manual, coded within us. Unfortunately, however, we weren't created open-source, and great pains must be taken to reveal this knowledge.

“You're in a rut.”

I'm in disbelief. It's not the sentence, itself, which surprises, but the offhand way in which it's delivered.

“Y-you're telling me I'm in a rut?” I sputter. “You don't think I know this?”

“Oh, I'm sure you're aware. These pages you sent me? These chapters? A little dull, friend. A little dull. What's the word? Hollow? Contrived? Ah, formulaic.”

This doesn't surprise me, not in the least. Writing's been easy lately. Too easy. And when writing's easy, something's wrong.


“-I'm not saying it's all terrible. No, in fact, it's all good. But that's just it, it's all good - it could be better. A little more dynamic, you know? Each word in each sentence sits in place, behaving perfectly. Each group of sentences, each paragraph, is perfectly uniform. Each chapter, the same. All so - what's that? - ah, homogenised.”

When you know your story, you will know what to write. It's one of the first things you'll learn when you start out, fumbling through the wilds of writing. The big dogs will tell you this. You'll learn it at your writing workshops. They'll repeat it like a mantra: When you know your story, you will know what to write. The words will echo in your ears. You'll draw up your outlines, boil your plot down into a 250 word synopsis. You'll keep condensed chapters, bulleted lists, tacked to a corkboard for easy reference. You'll know your characters so intimately, you'll start inviting them to important events. Oh, you'll know your story, all right.

But perhaps you'll get too close, too snug, and you won't be able to see beyond the printed page. You'll begin typing, and the words will flow from your fingertips, sticking fast to the paper. Solid, rocksteady words. Immovable. What is it to have no soul, to be completely, utterly, spiritless? Just ask any character who has had her life written for her. She does not, and indeed, can not easily know herself, and so drifts aimlessly, effortlessly, through the pages of her life.

It is only when she begins asking questions that she will truly understand herself. Why am I here? How many pages are in this book? She'll start out in this manner, asking questions which only have more questions as answers. Is this book just one of many on a shelf? How big is the library? Greater knowledge breeds greater confusion. Is the library just one of many buildings on the block? Sometimes in our quest for enlightenment, the obvious is overlooked and we forget to ask the most important questions of all. Whose fingers are typing this? Why?

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