“No story is terrible if…”

Does fiction have to be important? There are always jokes about the “great american novel” or “the book to end all books” when you are a writer. I look at the books I’ve been reading lately: Hemingway, Robison, Cunningham, McCarthy, and more. Were their books important when they came out? Or is it only that we see them that way through the hazy lens of time, the way the pages of old love letters yellow and fade so beautifully. They may say nothing more romantic than “I miss you” but when they are crumbling and illegible they are a sort of testament to love. Time cannot make bad writing good. In fact, I think it can only serve to emphasize the flaws as age deepens lines and gravity takes its toll. 

But, if it is a good story, if someone enjoys it and it captures their attention, their imagination–is it any less important than something by Hugo or Fitzgerald or Kerouac? Does everything we write have to be some sort of commentary? A stand for or against something? Can there be beautiful writing and captivating characters that serve no other real purpose than to reach out with their golden tipped fingers and pull you in saying, “Come with me to places you’ve never been”? 

William Faulkner said, “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself…alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” 

The Hemingway of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris said, “No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.”

I tend to agree with both. Some people would perhaps say this is too narrow a stipulation, too confining. But what could be less so? The human heart in conflict with itself is a thing of endless possibilities. Endless humans (or non-humans if you will) and endless conflicts. The truth of a story is also subjective–it doesn’t mean the story had to have happened to you or happened at all. But if the story contains truth, reveals truth, prompts a search for truth–whatever that truth may be–how can it fail to be worthwhile?

The original question in this post was not rhetorical. I think blogging has become voyeuristic in so many ways. We read, we watch, we peer into the lives of bloggers, but we never interact. So I will repeat my question: does fiction have to be inherently important?

 

Why do I blog?

This is a question that everyone with an online presence (replace “blog” with whatever form of social media you use) should probably ask themselves. And today, I did. Do I blog for attention? For those little notifications that someone “liked” a post or commented on one? Do I get tied up in watching the stats of how many visitors I’ve had per day, and how many posts each visitor has viewed?

Often, the answer is yes. Yes, I do these things, I admit it. But the little thrills of pleasure when someone enjoys a piece or takes the time to read multiple stories I’ve posted are the hot fudge on top of the reason I blog. 

 I blog because I write. Because I’ll be driving and an idea will pop into my head and I will be forced to cling to that spark of inspiration by its thrashing tail until I can tap out my stream of consciousness into my phone at a red light. I drip water all over my computer keyboard after a shower because I am too impatient to dry my fingers off, afraid that the scene or line of dialogue in my head will disappear if I wait an instant. 

I blog because I write, and because I write, I want to be read. Of course, if no one ever read the words I put onto paper, I would write anyway. But just as no man is an island, no writer can be, either. Perhaps there are people who can only write for themselves; certainly, there are things I have written that will never see eyes other than my own (thank goodness). But, why create if no one ever sees the creation? What if Michaelangelo had kept the David in a closet? Or painted the work that graces the Sistine Chapel in his garage? Please don’t think I’m suffering from hubris and comparing myself to Michaelangelo. 

I think anyone who creates—whether it is fiction, non-fiction, art, film, architecture—anyone who takes something that existed only in the cloudy grey cerebral cortex and brings it to life, makes it concrete, does so not just for themselves. Hiding your work from potentially critical eyes, you will be forever blind to both its brilliance and its flaws. If you never expose your creation to the light of day, you will never know whether it will be Frankenstein’s monster or the Mona Lisa. 

And so, while I may overload Twitter, Instagram, etc. etc. etc. with the mundane and the banal, I try to keep that out of this space. I avoid posting mediocre work just to get hits and make my stats go up, I (try to) avoid rambling posts about nothing, and I look forward to feedback from readers and comment-ers. After all, with all the worlds created in our heads, it is good to invite others into those worlds every once in a while if only so that they can pull us out.