I have been meaning to write this post for a bit. I think there should be more content to this blog – instead of photographs of things I have made and plugs and lists of procrastinations. So this post constitutes ‘content’. Make it last, because I am still working hard and I will not post every day again for a while.
The ‘content’ is mainly some thoughts about the post that Stephen Daniel Lewis wrote about making things up and memoir and compassion and empathy. These were things that I thought a lot about the last time I was writing a book, and now I am writing another one, I am thinking about them again. They must be my ‘pet subjects’ or ‘recurring themes’ or something. I am glad other people are thinking about them too. I don’t know why that matters.
I used to think that stories should be very realistic and not have things in them that wouldn’t happen. Now I have been writing short stories for a while I like to write about odd things happening and try to make them realistic. I just submitted a story about a man being driven mad by his recycling bins. I think the bins actually kill him. I think that still counts as a realistic story because even though it is third person it is all from his point of view, and I was telling the truth. I mean, I wasn’t lying about what this character thought and felt, even if he might have been eccentric or slightly inaccurate in his understanding. I think that is okay. I think there are more important ways of telling the truth. Things can be emotionally true or credible without having to have events that are possible in them.
Stephen wonders about stories where the line between memoir and fiction is blurred. I really like stories like that. All my stories are like that. Even if they are not about things that I know are true because I have experienced them, the feelings behind them are true. I don’t think I could pretend to be another person and write about them unless I had an idea how they were feeling. Writing is like empathising with someone imaginary. Stephen isn’t sure that there is a point to this. I think it is good for your empathy muscles. You can identify with fictional people, and it might make you be better at imagining what it is like to be other, real people. This comes in handy for not hitting people or starting wars. But also, I don’t mind if there isn’t a point or a usefulness for stories and empathising. I think if there is a point it should be a bonus side effect and not the reason why I set out to write. That is true for me, anyway.
I also think that when you set out to write something ‘true’ like a memoir, the act of writing it will almost certainly make it into fiction. It will be unreliable, because it is only one point of view. Even if you get a few points of view in there, it will still be unreliable because you are using words and writing to tell the story, and words are not things, just the noises we make to point at things. And writing is mainly re-writing, and remembering. I like it how ‘remembering’ is a word that reminds me of dismembering. And also ‘re’ + ‘membering‘. It might mean something like giving something a body. So when we are writing we are giving ghosts of memories little word bodies. I am not sure what this means. They are just thoughts that I like to have.
I don’t think ‘true’ stories are possible. Maybe it is possible to have true music or true paintings. I don’t have an experience of making music or paintings.
This is the end of ‘content’. As you were.