If You Write It, They Will Come

When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, I was unable to take my General Education requirement for Arts & Letters in a timely fashion, and the most desirable of those electives were only open to students in their first two years, so I was left to make the best of what was available and to take a course on LA:  The Fiction.  It was a good course, taught by a genuinely open-minded liberal with whom I debated congenially.  One of the many texts I had to read for that course–we covered about a novel a week, if not more–was the book What Makes Sammy Run, which gives a picture of an upwardly mobile Jewish young man who makes it big in the movie industry from the ghettos of New York City.  Among the more interesting insights from that book was the way that the young Sammy Glick won the favor of a writer by professing a love of an obscure play that had failed but that the author had viewed particularly highly.  The insight was a worthwhile one that has many consequences that are worth reflecting upon.

It is a common experience that writers–and this includes bloggers and songwriters as well as playwrights–have that works of deep personal importance are often ignored and neglected while works that are tossed off without a great deal of thought and reflection catch on with the wider public.  C.S. Lewis, for example, was most fond of his novel Perelanda, the middle novel of his Space Trilogy, and yet the lack of action in this novel has tended to frustrate readers who prefer the other two novels in the trilogy to the lengthy and philosophical attempt of Lewis’ stand-in protagonist to avert the fall of the first couple in a Venesian Eden through serving as the good angel to the tempter on the other shoulder.  Likewise, a great many one-hit wonder musicians [1] find that it is their simplest and least interesting songs that become their biggest hits while the more richly layered and complex works of their discography go unappreciated by the masses.  The reasons for this are not difficult to determine.  When a writer of considerable depth and complexity pours himself or herself deeply into a work, that work is going to have a lot of personal context that is not shared by the audience.  Conversely, those works of the least personal depth are the most accessible to the largest number of people, who can fill in the lack of depth by adding their own personal context.  From time immemorial, mass appeal has been gained by showing only a superficial image and allowing everyone to recast it according to their own interests, while showing depth allows for deep relationships with fewer beings who appreciate the layers and complexity and are willing to take the time to get to know someone beneath the surface.

Writers, in general, may be seen as having greater schizoid tendencies than the general population.  Speaking here from both personal experience and a good deal of observation of other members of my tribe, many writers have contrary pulls that make life deeply fraught with tension and difficulty.  Many writers struggle with a high degree of personal awkwardness, and much of writing takes place in solitary places of reflection and out of a well-spring of frustrated longings and deep personal suffering.  The desire to be known and accepted is balanced and countered by fears that one cannot be understood and that it would be disastrous if one was well-understood.  Fear and longing are suspended in tension, and it is impossible to resolve matters either way, and so the writer–and this is true of many other artists as well–is compelled to both reveal himself in his writing wile simultaneously concealing the truth as well.  The result tends to lead many members of a potential audience to go astray and fill in whatever context they bring to the table or to turn away because they do not wish to take the time to untangle the complexities of what a writer has laid before them, both hoping and fearing that someone will desire to understand them through understanding what they have written.  Compelled to pour themselves out, writers weave tapestries of word pictures that hide the painful truths of their existence in plain sight trusting that few will have the persistence to seek those truths out, so that they may reduce the intolerable pressure of coping with the stresses of their existence without bringing upon themselves and others shame and disaster.

Given this context, it ought to be unsurprising that someone like me would spend so much thought and attention pondering on which aspects of my writing resonate most with audiences.  Certain constellations of entries appear to be viewed once or twice on many days, leading me to wonder if the same person or small group of person return to the same entries repeatedly in search of understanding or reinforcement of their determination to act or refrain from acting.  Other posts, most often those writings of mine that I view as being particularly basic in nature, are viewed often and frequently by people similarly looking for straightforward discussions of fundamental issues.  Not for these readers is the difficulty of deciphering fevered concerns expressed in difficult words placed in an environment of tortured syntax, but rather simple and direct statements of basic truth.  Just like any other form of labor, intellectual labor is the sort of work that many will avoid by any means possible.  I can certainly understand this tendency.  Yet there are many rewards which come to those who are willing to put forth the labor to understand others and themselves, and to come to grips with the complexity of the world that surrounds them and that which lies inside of themselves, not least is the reward of knowing that one belongs to a larger tribe of similar people, and that one is not entirely alone on the face of this haunted earth.  To send a message out is to have hope, even hope against hope, that there is someone who will take the time and effort to receive the communication, and perhaps respond in kind.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/25/living-in-a-box/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/04/when-she-cries/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/12/09/another-dumb-blonde/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/12/07/the-love-is-all-around-me/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/03/come-on-come-on-its-there-at-your-feet/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/10/02/oh-the-divorces/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/10/06/like-the-deserts-miss-the-rain/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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