Dilemmas All In A Row

It’s a dilemma. Actually there are several dilemmas and several excuses and several ideas to entertain, and when you consider these things properly, one by one, you realise that you can’t consider them properly in a logical order – you will forget things, and sometimes one of these questions gives rise to another one, an entirely new question which was not on the list originally, and it appearing and taking its place on the list makes the list a revised list and it rearranges the order of the list and inevitably some items drop out, some to be recovered later and placed at the back of the queue and some gone for ever. This is the way my mind works. This is the way it works when I am prevaricating, and it’s the way it works especially when I think I really should be writing something. Something creative. Something involving effort and imagination which will amount to a wasted time and immense frustration if it doesn’t work, and will announce itself to me as an unsubtle reminder that I’m not actually very good at this and that there’s not much point really trying to do anything which is a stretch, because failure will result – that’s the only inevitable thing – and that’s going to be crushing. It’s crushing to doubt your ability and then have a go at something and confirm, eventually, that there was no point even starting in the first place. You’re no good. Other people are. They can do this. But you can’t.

And yet that’s silly. Of course it is. The only way you can improve is to practice, and when you practice you try things and some won’t work but some will, and you learn about your strengths and weaknesses and find out what is effective and what isn’t. You must fail to succeed. Or, at least, you must allow yourself to not succeed brilliantly all the time in order to eventually succeed brilliantly … but that doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t sound hard enough. Not enough like experience with a capital E. Like rejection and self-belief in the face of derision and scorn. Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and going again. And these are the questions I ask myself and spend time contemplating: it’s less damaging to weigh up the idea that some people need to come back from crushing defeat whereas perhaps some just need to build slowly and don’t require humiliation and desolation to be overcome in order to enjoy success – it’s less damaging to think about all the implications of a question like that than it is to actually expose yourself to the possibility of that humiliation. It’s easier to think than to do. It’s quite easy to come up with things to think about in order to prevent doing.

It’s possible to become distracted by wondering whether you read enough fiction or whether non-fiction ought to be sufficient; and it’s possible to think that maybe you read too much about authors, having hoped at the start that somehow the wisdom of their experience would filter through as you learn about them and now you realise that you just read about them because you find them interesting, but this interest has no practical benefit at all; and it’s possible to wonder whether you have enough experience of certain professions and lifestyles, ages and economic conditions to write about other people in other places, and to wonder which books and authors you should read to become more informed about the world and how to represent it in a literary sense. Yes, it is easy to think about these things. These things and more.

And recently I have been thinking about the difficulty of presenting characters which are nothing like you/me/the author – particularly if the character has to be a bad person or a dumb person or perhaps a good person with limited horizons – and the idea led to a degree of disquiet as I explored some of the options in my head. After all, Nabokov wrote about a paedophile when he wrote Lolita, and he even showed some sympathy to this character, Humbert Humbert, but that does not mean that Nabokov was himself a paedophile or wanted to be one. He was an author, bringing a character to life. That’s what author’s do. Yet many authors partially base their main characters on themselves, and this is a conflicting idea. In any case, I haven’t finished properly thinking this one out yet. And I should probably actually write something.

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Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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