In an article I read recently, the author had a habit of bringing up the notion of what a writer brings to his or her art. He used the words “beliefs??? and “dreams??? often enough to affect me.
Maybe it was my half-awake state on the subway, but reading this article did more to shed some light inside my tunneled brain than I expected. I’ve been struggling for years, but in a roundabout way, with my ideas. Namely, what is it I really want to write about.
There were the stories I wrote before grad school, usually narcissistic ramblings of a twenty-something male, who was often just enough like me to be transparently uninteresting. There was writing I did in grad school, that more closely approached “real??? stories, but still they ended up feeling like writing exercises to me. I wrote stories I felt like I should write given my station in life, economy, and society and the literature I was consuming.
All along the way, I kept feeling like there was something I was half-heartedly reaching for, but just barely stretching my muscles; wagging a finger in the air.
Beliefs. I almost always avoid that word. Is a belief system that distinguishing factor between those who make a living at this art and those of us who don’t? I can see how our beliefs (in our words, our talents, our commitment) bring us to the writing desk and keep us in the chair. That seems clear.
Our beliefs bring stories we’re dying to tell out of the shadows of our unconsciousness. With our beliefs we see the narrative, the structure, the tone and language of our art unfold, and we set them into type on the page with diligence and discipline.
But I’ve struggled for many years, because I told myself that I believe in nothing. And that felt right to me… No wonder it’s been so hard for me to produce.
I may be an occasional grump and a cynical bastard, but I think, in the end, that I’m not a nihilist. I do believe in some things. It’s time for me to give these beliefs the right of way. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about pedantic dogma or some kind of religious co-opting of science fiction. Nothing so insidious as all that.
I’m merely admitting to myself that it’s OK to let what I feel strongly about seep into what I write. And for the sake of my own conscious commitment, I want to put a few of these beliefs down, for the record, and for the ages.
- I believe, left to their own devices and will, people are inherently bad. We’re all assholes. And it’s only through the right love, encouragement, and guidance that any of us rise up out of the muck.
- I believe that the pursuit of the cheap and the easy only leaves us with more to fix and more to pay in the end.
- I believe greed is the deadliest of all so-called “deadly sins.??? It is the root cause of all others (murder, lust, envy, you name it). Greed is the granddaddy of them all. It’s time the old coot just kicked the bucket and moved on to another plane of existence.
- I believe in the cycles of the universe. What goes around comes around, even, eventually to all the conservative, up-tight, greedy assholes who seem like they get away with it. Not in hell, but in small ways, undetectable by those of who care to see bad people get their just desserts, what goes around comes around.
- I believe there are immeasurable forms of human relationships. My love for my children, my irreplaceable connection with my wife, my deep gratitude for my parents, and my unquenchable interest in my birth parents are all proof of that—for me.
- I believe quality far outweighs quantity. And I believe I’ll have another.