Statement of Purpose

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MY CAREER GOAL IS to be a good short story writer; currently I am not a good short story writer. I’ve written one, maybe two, stories that aren’t absolutely horrible—but that’s the most I can say for myself.

I remember reading the story that made me want to write stories (one day maybe I will do a post on that story). It’s hard now to describe that feeling. I was reading in bed one night and, half asleep, I had this strong sense that if I tried hard enough I could learn how to make people feel the way I felt while reading that story. If I could do that, I thought, maybe I could do ‘creative’ work for a living.

These rare moments—the more I think about them—are less like inspiration and more like a complete lack of self-awareness (but who knows, maybe they are less different than I’m claiming?). It reminds me of what John Updike said in an interview one time, and I’m paraphrasing here: that to be a successful writer, commercially speaking, you basically have to be a self-deluded ego-maniac. And that makes sense. To posit, even for a second, that anything you have to say should be written on a piece of paper and then be paid for by someone who could just as well be watching Game of Thrones in HD is ludicrous. And yet, despite people reading less and less, and book sales continually tanking, the number of books being published each year is increasing sharply—which is not surprising since the only barriers to entry now for publishing are having 1) a computer with a word processor, and 2) a connection to the internet.

I mention all this not to discourage anyone from writing but to point out that the writer—and by extension the practitioner of any creative endeavor effected by the democratization of content—is an even crazier person nowadays than they used to be.

 

REWIND TO THAT NIGHT I’m sitting in bed reading that short story.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was reading a work of genius because, in a way, with genius, that’s the whole point. The good stuff, any real unassuming work of art, says something without having to make reference to itself, which makes it look easy. This is the trick that hooks young artists into chasing that impossible feeling. Experiencing it is one thing. Maybe, you think, you will get off easy and have deeply undiscovered super-talent which will take form immediately. You will wake up one day and be Mozart or George Eliot. That sometimes happens maybe once in a generation. But actually doing it is another thing. You try and you realize that making that feeling in a piece of work is harder than you ever thought it would be. You struggle for days, weeks, months, years. It’s so hard, you ask, is it worth it?

 

THIS BLOG HAS SOMETHING to do with that problem. I have figured out, by writing stories, that one of the biggest challenges, which would intuitively seem like the easiest part, is identifying what is good and figuring out what your genuine contribution—in style, voice, technique, etc.—really is to your art form. It is easy to express what we don’t like about something. But to clearly articulate what makes something good and worth replicating—that’s much more difficult.

The natural inclination is to mimic who we like. We listen to our favorite music, read our favorite books, or whatever it is, and practice copying that until we get it. This is probably an unavoidable step in getting where we need to go, but copying someone else can never be a substitute for finding what genuine expression we have in ourselves. That is the really hard part because our ‘selves’ are often the most difficult places to look, for anything.

 

MY GOAL HERE AND NOW, in the pages of this blog, is to try and clearly articulate who my favorite artists are—regardless of their medium—and how they do what they do.

I am hoping this will 1) allow me to be honest with myself in showing what I really like regardless of what I think I should like, and 2) provide a place where you, the reader, can also take part: discovering new artists, or re-discovering works you hadn’t considered, or spurring you to think in the same way about the art that has most deeply touched you.

 

IN THE SHORT AMOUNT OF time I’ve been doing this I’ve found this type of ‘review,’ for lack of a better word, has been effective in forcing a true consideration of what goodness is in art, and allows for a truer picture of quality. Putting anything into words is a way of testing it. If you think deeply about works of art you love, and force yourself to think of why, many times words will simply start pouring out.

I want to share this process with a community because nowadays, with nonexistent barriers to entry, we need groups organized around good content: to share, explore, and recommend. How else are we to filter our ways through the infinite sea of information? One person can’t do it alone. A good recommendation or quick explanation from a learned peer can save a lot of time. In the words of my favorite online book reviewer, who only does positive reviews, Clifford Lee Sargent, “Originally I was going to review books that I loved and books that I hated, but then I realized something. That is: I’m going to die, and you are too, and there are a lot of fucking books out there.”

 

PERHAPS ONE DAY I will be sitting at my desk and realize that I have really written something worth reading; something to put next to, and maybe even above, my favorite works. I can’t imagine what that would feel like.

But until then, if that day ever comes, the next best thing I can think to do is search, on this blog and elsewhere, for the next step forward.

As I share the works that have most affected me, please (I want the comment section to be littered with hidden gems) share with the community the works that have affected you.

And maybe—

Just maybe—

If we save each other time and expose one another to things we would otherwise have never come across—

Some of us will get lucky.

 

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Is there a piece of art–movie, book, music, etc.–that you would recommend to someone else? Leave a link in the comments section

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36 thoughts on “Statement of Purpose

  1. ” If you think deeply about works of art you love, and force yourself to think of why, many times words will simply start pouring out.” I really like this phrase, I haven’t really thought about it, but art can represent a part of us that we should explore in more depth. Your goal of sharing information about your favorite artists is very meaningful and helpful.

    A piece of art I would recommend would be the manga/anime The Flowers of Evil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flowers_of_Evil_(manga)), which I find original in the characters’ psychological development.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just write! I’ve been a painter my entire adult life, but a few years back an idea for a novel came to me and I began writing it so I could sleep at night (my wife always said I should have been a writer). I wrote it in three months and two years later am still polishing it. In the meantime, I wrote a book of short stories called, Grant Avenue, again in about three months. I spent a year and a half editing and polishing that work. Live a life worth writing about and read great authors. Don’t think about making a living as a writer or writing a best seller; it will only muck up the works. No one can show you or teach you to be an artist, either with the written word or the brush. Be honest and sincere and don’t be afraid; and fuck the fashionable! Anyway, that’s my two cents. Good luck!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Quoting your Updike paraphrase “to be a successful writer, commercially speaking, you basically have to be a self-deluded ego-maniac.” Whoa. And yet, I do agree, you often do have to ‘leave the building’ and launch into your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always found my favorite books have been writers who have the ability to describe feelings and visuals in such a way that you have the sense that you are standing in the scene alongside them. That moment where you think “damn, I’m standing in your shoes now”.

    The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is the best example of that feeling for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Daniel,
    Thank you for visiting my blog. I just want to say – keep writing. A blog is a good way to force yourself to write. I say “force” because it takes courage and as I seem to lack it most times, I sometimes have to trap myself into writing. I have a small 20 page magazine that I publish for local seniors in nursing homes etc. and in 2012 I began a serialized “novella” about the war of 1812 which I then had to complete because I knew people wanted to know how it would evolve. I basically fooled myself into completing it. Now I am editing it to hopefully publish. So you see, it can be done.
    Good luck.
    Mollie

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are a good writer, as you have an analytical mind and you know how to present your thoughts clearly. Don’t give up, all writers struggle and you have great team spirit, so maybe if you don’t end up writing anything significant, I am sure that other writers would love to work with you.

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  7. Like other people have said, just write! You’re obviously able to construct sentences and paragraphs, and articulate your feelings. Go for it, my friend…

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      1. I may only be in my late teens but you can always rant to me if the ink and mashed wood to a pulp annoy you. X

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  8. Thanks. I’ve been writing what seems like forever, and have been paid for my writing (as a hobbyist not really a real writer LOL). You are correct about just letting your mind latch on to something, especially for blogs. I have a blog because online writing clients want you to have one before they will hire you. I wrote the mandatory 50,000 words for last years National Novel Writing Month. It has a beginning, middle, and end. But my characters are flat. I need to let my mind latch onto each character for the details that will make them real. Thanks for your insights. Have a blessed day.

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    1. You do the same! I like what you said about letting the characters lead 🙂 I’m trying to do that too

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  9. I may be a tad late to sharing a book that I enjoy but there’s a good read I have in mind after reading this post and the brilliant one you wrote on Chekhov. If you haven’t already checked it out, I highly recommend a relatively modern novel by contemporary author Fredrik Backman. The book is titled “A Man Called Ove”. It’s really nice and short. I opened it, read the first two chapters, and couldn’t stop reading it.

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  10. “It is easy to express what we don’t like about something. But to clearly articulate what makes something good and worth replicating—that’s much more difficult.”

    I love the dual meaning to this line.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is hard getting out there and let alone standing out. I hope to reach people with my poetry blog and hopefully, support myself that way as well. But everyone has a computer, like you said. And you could be a poet and not even know it! lol! 😉 But it’s also trying to have an original angle of looking at the world a s a writer to, you know?

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  12. One of my favorite pieces of writing (and advice re: my own ~voice~) is Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” which you can find here: https://www.csusm.edu/sjs/documents/silenceintoaction.pdf.

    Your post was very comforting to read, as I have/still have similar struggles. I’m constantly asking myself where my voice fits amongst the inundation of voices and content. So thank you for sharing yours and for providing great work.

    Liked by 1 person

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