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This blog is part of my life journey. I've got places to be and people to see along the way. Hope you'll join me and maybe join in the discussion...

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

#IWSG --What's It All For--Really?

            First Wednesday of the month means another edition of Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.   You can discover more participants here.


         Stop me if you've heard this before.   No, on the other hand don't.  It's Insecure Writers day isn't it?  Old issues are still current issues and will probably linger on my mind in the future as well.   I think my insecurities, doubts, concerns, or whatever you want to call them have a certain sense of legitimacy or they wouldn't haunt me so persistently.

          How important is writing fiction?  How can I make my stories more meaningful and add to the collective betterment of the world?  When I start to delve back into finishing one of the works I've started I start getting plagued by these ridiculous questions.  But are they such ridiculous questions?   Have many works of fiction really, truly, made the world a better place?

          After all, fiction is primarily intended to entertain readers, right?  I've spent most of my life in entertainment related industries and I'm one who loves to be entertained.  But how much of this speaks of indulgent excess and frivolity?   I want my movies, music, and, yes, books, but how badly do I need it and to what extent?  Life should be more than just seriousness and work.  Entertainment escape is necessary I think, but is there a point when people strive too much for escape and if I contribute another book to the vast existing body of entertainment literature have I done something worthwhile?

         Right now there are so many books about vampires, wizards, zombies, and other creatures of the magical and profane.  How many variations of murder or love stories can we continue to write?  Can I make my science fiction story so unique that it will supersede all others in the genre?  Will my attempt at literary fiction really be all that literary?   After all even a great novel like Huckleberry Finn kind of collapses into nonsense at the end leaving it a flawed "Great American Novel".

          I'd like to think that I might write something with impact like the novels of  Ayn Rand or Upton Sinclair.   Or something on a loftier plane of thought such as the work of Albert Camus or Flannery O'Connor.  Writing might seem more meaningful if I were creating works that inspired readers to think rather than me, the writer, doing the thinking for them, entertaining with a story, and in essence dumping them off at the end with a peck on the cheek and a "thanks for reading and now forget about me until my next book comes out".  How much do we read that stays with us, sticks in our craw, and perhaps even changes the way we think?  That's what I'd like to write, but that seems like a big mountain to climb.

         Yes, I'm rambling on and on and I could keep going.  I could write a book about this.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find that somebody already has.  These thoughts can not have originated with me and will be thought by others.  They weigh heavy on me at times, but should they weigh me down?
          The bottom line I guess is am I writing for posterity, prosperity, or just out of my posterior?

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  1. What I've read so far from you is great Lee and you shouldn't feel the need to question it so much man, honestly. I guess the group is just about any insecurities you may have though haha, I should join up maybe!

  2. Just write! Heck, I know I'm just writing for entertainment. If people enjoy my work right now and that's it, I'm all right with that.

  3. You write because you must, it's in your veins. Your insecure wondering if your writing is up to par. That's when crit partners and writer friends come to your rescue. Write Arlee, the readers will come.

  4. I think you have to let go of those feelings long enough to get stuff finished. Before and after there's no avoiding them, but during is when I have to put them out of my mind and force myslef to push through to the end.

    Moody Writing

  5. That last sentence is a gem, Lee. Totally you. Bottom line, there's only one you. If you don't write what you're meant to write that particular thing(ish)* will have never been given voice.

    It sounds trite but it's the truth. Carry on, good man.

    *Word(ish) I inserted for lack of a more appropriate one.

  6. Write. Somewhere there is someone who wants/needs/should hear what you have to say. If you write it, they will come (read) . . .

  7. I was thinking along similar lines the other day. I didn't come up with any great answers myself but I did realize that the books I remember the most, the ones that live on my shelf affected me in some way - whether I loved the characters, the story, whether it was a big book with big ideas that spoke to me, etc. These books spoke to ME. They maybe didn't speak to others in the same way. As an author, I don't think you ever know the impact your story will have - you just have to write the story that wants to be written then let it go.

  8. Hi Lee - I definitely feel your pain. Does the world need another novel? I guess, I hope, that what I write is more than entertainment - or if it is - it gives the reader some space, some air, to see how wondrous and goofy the world is. Part of the time I'm a psychotherapist and I could share with you that most of us (therapists that is) have the same moments of doubt. We might think - god - these folks just need a good old friend, a friendly ear, a compassionate heart to hear them. Truth is that all of us have a unique view on this madcap trip through the cosmos and we artists have to figure it out by making worlds, either on the page or on the canvas, or on the film. You are a magician and I love your world view!

  9. Hi Lee,
    I think the world definitely needs books (and movies and music) that entertain. We deal with so much in our lives and the world is such a mess, we need our escape mechanisms. And we're all so different, we need many voices to share their own unique thoughts and talents. So write away, my friend.

  10. I'll echo Alex's comment and say just write! In fact, I'll go a step further and say just write for you. Write for yourself first and foremost and the rest will fall into place.

    Good luck!


  11. Hi, Lee,

    I believe you THINK too much. Relax and enjoy your writing. When an author puts passion into their writing the reader will enjoy and appreciate it.

  12. Write your story, Lee, and let your readers decide what it means to them. You don't have to do both jobs.

  13. Yeamie-- Thanks. You're always good for encouragement and I appreciate it.

    Alex--I know. Part of me urges me with that, but there's an inner nag that wants something more.

    Em -- I really want to believe that and I need to press on.

    Mood -- You are correct--I know that. I think I've given that same advice to others and need to take it as my own.

    Suze -- This is a good way to look at it, but still I'm fixated on content and the message it conveys.

    Sheila -- I want it to come that easy. I need to stop resisting.

    Madeline -- That's a good way to see it. My stories envelop me; I merely need them to touch someone else.

    Jan -- I can't lose sight of the wonder of magic. I can be easy to do when you know how the trick works. The showmanship keeps it in the realm of real magic and I must play the role of showman.

    Karen -- Thanks for that encouragement. My problem is nothing that a big advance on a future book couldn't solve. Then again maybe no amount of money in the world can cure.

    JW --- That's the first advice I would have given. I do want the writing to be of lasting value.

    Michael -- I either think too much or try to find too many excuses.

    LD -- I hope I can do that. My inner critic is being very mean to me.


  14. Wonderful post Lee! You gave us a lot to ponder! Me, I write about whatever attracts my attention. The only problem being...I guess I have a short attention span! lol Maybe Flash Fiction would work for me...?!

  15. I ask myself that question every day. And, yes, I'd love to contribute something of value to the world of literature, but maybe my contribution will be a few hours of escape.

    As to Any Rand--how prophetic can one writer be?

  16. Hey Lee, I had forgotten all about the IWSG until just now, so thanks for remembering it!
    I understand totally where you're coming from...I've never had anything published, but I used to think that anyone who writes, (including myself) should strive to have an impact on did the authors you mention. I don't think that anymore.
    There is a place for literary works that change the way we think, but there is also a place for stuff that's pure entertainment...that said, there is a huge difference, (I think) between literature and the latest fantasy/wizard/vampire novel..some of those are just plain badly written, as popular as they are.(Remember what Oscar Wilde said,"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.That is all.)
    That's the beauty of any of the arts...there's something for everyone.
    Some people don't want to think about the state of society, or their place in the world..they work hard all day and at the end of it they just want to be entertained, and that's fine. I think entertainment is a necessity, and you will be contributing to the happiness and enjoyment of a lot of people.
    Just keep on writing and I know that it will 'stick in our craw'!
    Have good luck Lee...and a great day!

  17. Lee,

    I write and read for escape and entertainment. Of course we would all like to make an impact on our readers, but I don't think there is a new thought out there that hasn't been already written about. The best we can do is write something entertaining and thought provoking, each in our own way of story telling. Just because it has probably been said a hundred ways before is no reason not to write because it is in our blood to do so. There will always be readers for the tales that we can conjure up and, with any luck, some of us will come up with something so fantastic that it lives on long after we're gone.


  18. Sometimes the place where we make the biggest difference is in ourselves. It is the only life we can REALLY change.

  19. Ella -- Thanks for that. I often have a short attention span as well. Short fiction can be quite satisfying.

    C.Lee-- Ayn Rand still stimulates debate and deep thinking. I admire that.

    Eve -- You too are being very encouraging and I appreciate that. By golly, I'm starting to get convinced that I'm overly concerned about this. But on the other hand....

    Sunni -- I think of the stories we tell our kids or tell others and yes, they are often more-than-once-told-tales and people still listen.

    Faraway -- That's where I try to write from: Would I want to read this? Maybe I need to focus on that philosophy.


  20. The thing is is that you can't ever tell what kind of lasting impact you are going to make. I don't think Jules Verne thought, "Gee, I'm gonna write this story about men going to the moon, and, then, people will be inspired by it and make it happen."
    Richard Adams definitely wasn't writing Watership Down because he thought it would have some deep meaning for people. He was just trying to -entertain- his daughters on a long car drive.

    Just... write the best you can and let the rest work itself out.

  21. You'd be surprised how art of any kind can affect people long term. You never know how your contribution is going to influence or contribute to others enjoyment and understanding of life in general. Or how this will all pass onto further generations. So write on, I say. For any reason at all, really.

  22. Just keep writing. I've never cared about being the most talented, award winning, spectacular writer. I just want to entertain people. Give them a break from reality. Keep Writing!

  23. I hear that! I love to read fiction though. It takes me away from sucky days - and that is a wonderful thing.

  24. Does any fiction writer know their work is going to be interpreted as a though provoking classic? No. They just write the best story they know how. If you love doing it, then that's all you need to do. Then you will have given of your self as cleanly, as diligently and with as much care as you can.

    I laughed out loud at your last sentence.

  25. I think that reading fictional classics from previous centuries can show you how to write a fictional book which has a message and purpose and not just the entertaining one.
    You just have to see what are the problems of today's world and try to make it better by putting it into your story and enlightening your readers.
    I actually have an idea for a worldchaning book that would touch millions, but I don't have the parts for the story :)))

  26. Andrew -- I know we can't say what will last, but I just want to try to add more depth to the stories I tell than just the stories themselves. This is probably a formula for writing disaster if I try too hard to do this, but still I want to do more that provide light entertainment.

    Jasmine -- This is probably the best advice I should take.

    Ciara -- I'm getting too weighted down with my concerns, I know.

    Southpaw -- I agree that fiction should take us away from our daily toil and take us to another place.

    Liza -- I think the type of stories I'm telling may be my problem sometimes. They're not the mainstream sort of thing and they tend to delve into ideas more than action. I'll need to work on that I think.

    Dezmond -- The Great American Novel from the Serbian perspective could be a new and interesting twist. I think what you say is the reason why I tend to read classics and older literature. I have a problem with a lot of today's topics.


  27. I write to impact others for year, to inspire and uplift. They won't become classics, but then again, many of today's 'classics' are simply unreadable.

  28. I understand completely, because I feel the same way, but I think the most we can do is write the stories that really resonate within us and hope for the best.

    I was reading an article in The New Yorker the other day by a writer who talking about the disastrous results he faced by trying to hard in that way. Actually, it was about crafting perfect sentences, but it amounts to the same thing.

  29. WOW, BOIDMAN, I don't recall having "ghost-written" this blog bit for you but...

    Ha! You're already reading my mind.

    You know I've thought those same things about novels (fiction) so many times. And when I think back on the writings that have really, truly made an impact on my life; made me rethink ideas, alter my worldview, adjust my attitudes, it is almost solely nonfiction books that I point to and credit. Beginning, of course, with The Holy Bible.

    And you're right about Twain's 'HUCKLEBERRY FINN'. Twain is my all-time favorite novelist, and I think the greatest, most profound social commentary ever recorded in a work of fiction is found in 'Huckleberry Finn' (namely chapters 16 and 31). But truth be told, toward the end, the story did fall apart (about the time Tom Sawyer entered narrative).

    And you know, when all is said and done, I would venture to guess that the nonfiction of a Henry David Thoreau did more to shape our collective thinking than did the brilliant but fictional writing of an authentic genius like Mark Twain.

    You raise some very valid questions, Brother.

    Incidentally, I just sent a reply to your fine and greatly appreciated Email. Check your InBox, Boidman.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  30. You are so witty, Lee! (Do people call you Lee?)

    Gosh, your aspirations are a lot higher than mine! I'm just wanting to create a novel that grips and immerses, regardless of whether it changes the way one thinks... though I hope to be at that level some day!

    Though I do read to be entertained... I don't like books that make me think too much, LOL! (I'm coming across dim-witted right now...)

    But truth? I think that if the author can create a piece of work that is entertaining and does the job of letting the reader escape, then the author has "saved" a life in a way... sometimes all we need is an escape... and that can do SO MUCH... ;)

  31. Good questions...We all want to know that we've left our footprint on the world. I think that as writers, we get too stuck in our heads sometimes pondering the BIG questions like you just did. That's not a bad thing...but sometimes we just need to write like Alex said. Let God worry about where it goes or what it's for. Do what you feel led to do, and leave the rest by the wayside.
    Besides, you already have a legacy. You've started a community building event which has HUGE momentum and is being noticed and it's because of the example of bloggers like you, who truly care and who builds relationships and means what they say and do what they say. They will remember you, Lee. The A-Z is a huge hit. Not that I'm writing your obit or anything....
    Yes, feeling rather morbid today. Buried my laptop. Ok, not exactly. Stuck laptop in bag of rice praying for miracle...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  32. I love your last question. My daughter just sent me a quote from her college humanities class that talks about the importance of story telling and the reading of fiction, how it helps us define life. I know I'm not getting prosperous, so I guess I'll go for posterity

  33. There are only so many tropes out there, the same ones being told over and over again. It's all in our perspective and how we tell the story. If you just do cuz you like to write, you'll always get satisfaction out of it.

  34. Entertainment is under-rated. And entertainment can change the world--one story at a time.

  35. Lee, for the love, please do NOT write a book in the vein of Ayn Rand. It's bad enough *she* did.


    Some Dark Romantic

  36. one of my early iwsg posts touched on this, but you said it so much better!

    we definitely need to escape and as our lives change, and yet repeat, so must our entertainment =)

  37. L.Diane -- I do want to write things that are readable.

    Andrew -- Sometimes trying too hard turns a work into something too sterile, too technical, and mostly without soul. I don't want to do that.

    StMc -- Some of what you have said in the past has definitely influenced some of my thinking although even in college when I wrote fiction I tried to make it have a message deeper than just a story.

    Morgan -- Yes I go by Lee. It's ironic that I've been in entertainment for all my life and yet seem to rail against it. I actually want to entertain, but I want to convey my beliefs and philosophies in doing so.

    Tina -- Your comment was a good start to an obit. I'll have to file this away for later use.

    Susan -- If I have any say in the choice I'm picking prosperity, but it would be nice to be remembered.

    Nancy -- I do like to write, but sometimes I worry over what I'm going to do once I've finished something.

    Lynda -- Great philosophy. I'll latch on to this.

    Mina-- I was just using Ayn Rand as an example because she fit my point. It's been years since I've read anything by her and I didn't care for it when I did, but I think I might appreciate her writing more now.

    Tara -- To every season of life there is an entertainment style we can appreciate more than we did at other times. Yes. I need to write and let the stories fall where they may.


  38. There are some books out there that change people's lives and perspectives. Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" for one. "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran and "Jonathon Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach other very good ones. If you wish to impart your philosophical wisdom in your books, why don't you write in the style of their works of fiction?

    I know what you mean about the dangers of excessive self-indulgence, but I definitely believe a bit of escapism, such as an enjoyable book (no matter what genre they prefer), can have a knock on effect on the mental wellbeing of people.

    I would suggest writing for yourself, instead of worrying what the end user will think of it :)

  39. I think if someone else gets a kick out of what you write then it's mission accomplished :)

  40. Write the book that you would love to read, Lee.

    None of us can imagine what would move into posterity and what would not. Keats wrote most of the time he was starving and consumptive and needed money, Shakespeare wrote to entertain, Jane Austen lay ignored for a century before anyone looked at her.

    The best we can do is write the best book we can write.

    Each of us has a unique perspective in this world, and our writing is a star in the darkness. Imagine how empty the night sky would be with just the waxing and waning moon.

  41. Ohmygoodness...I feel the same thing.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  42. Catherine -- Another vote for personal style and that's what I would lean toward.

    Jamie -- I agree. I can't deny that I would want to write fiction with the initial intent to entertain and not everyone is going to like what I do. I'll have to discover my audience.

    Damyanti -- I need to focus on what I want to read to make it a work of sincerity and truth. Thanks for the poetically expressed advice.

    Shelly -- Thanks for joining me in the insecurity and one can go wrong with hugs and chocolate.


  43. I've always wanted to write stories that entertain others the same way other stories have entertained me. Somewhere along the way, my one story developed a theme about prejudice and acceptance. So, don't worry about it. Your desire to write something that will make people think or be more than just an entertaining read might happen without you even knowing. The readers will let you know. =)

  44. I've wondered the same thing. But so long as I like what I've written and feel that it's a work I could proudly say I wrote, then I don't worry as much about its bigger impact. And if other people enjoy it, all the better.

  45. Write what makes you happy. It will probably never make me rich or profound, but I love what I do. I think that's all that matters. OK, now I tend to keep my fans in mind when writing, too.

  46. Ha! I like you last comment. Write for the fun of it. If you come up with something entertaining, or something that becomes a classic, great. If not, at least your placating your inner muse.

  47. For me, I write because I have something to say...sometimes I mean to be "insightful" and other times, I'm just being plain goofy. Just be yourself when you write--I remember reading your stuff at one of the flash fiction events and I liked what you had.

  48. I think when you tell a good story, readers remember. They also remember great characters. Nothing in a novel is ever perfect so I guess you can't think too hard on the whole posterity/prosperity thing.

  49. Patricia-- Good point. If I just focus on the story, the characters, and the writing itself, the message will come naturally if the message is needed.

    Golden Eagle --I'm the same way. When I do get something written and I like it then everything's okay.

    M Pax -- If I lose the joy then tedium will set in and there's no fun in that.

    Sherry -- Entertain, entertain--I've got to keep that in mind cause deep down that's really my primary objective.

    Cynthia -- Another good point: Just say what I need to say at that time and try to say it well.

    Melissa -- My dreams should not hold me back, but propel me forward.


  50. Ditto what everyone else said. You put too much pressure on yourself! You're naturally a deep thinker so I can't imagine that the stories that naturally flow out of you will be anything but thought provoking. Now stop thinking and get writing!

  51. Wow Lee, this has really got me thinking...
    Some people write as a form of therapy. For others, writing is escapism... where they can lose themselves in another world.
    So I'd say, if a person writes for himself, and if anybody out there likes what is written, then that's a bonus... like the cherry on top of the cake! Just some random thoughts...
    Why do I write? Good question. Never thought about it, and I'm a "late bloomer"... yet I've always been an avid reader... so does that mean I'm not really a "born writer"?

  52. Nicki -- Yes ma'am. You are making sense.

    Michelle -- I think most of us are "born writers", but the problem is that most of us don't write. The true writer who aspires to the professional level needs to write and persist in writing with the goal of being read. That's what we need to do if we want to be published, be read by others, and maybe even make some money at what we're doing. Gotta write.


  53. Hi, Arlee! What is the saying? Just do it. Just keep writing. You never know who will be impacted by your writing or how they will be impacted.

  54. Me again...I don't think you need to even try to say it well...just say it. Have a nice weekend!

  55. The biggest thing to remember is no one else can write an Arlee Bird book. In that you are truly one of a kind.

  56. Lee, Oh I can so relate to all those questions and comments. They have been spinning around my head recently and regularly too.

    I often write ISWG and have to correct myself. I wonder what that would stand for? LOL!

  57. I've pondered this question a few times myself. I know I'd like my fiction to make a lasting impression on people, but perhaps part of that is also ego- I.e I want to be 'more' than just a writer.

    Also, I loved your 'bottom line'. Cracked me up. ;-)

  58. Deep stuff here. Actually, I know this is supposed to pertain to writing, but you could apply this concept to everything you do in life. How much time do we do something really meaningful and how much time do we waste just to kill time? I think you need balance. Also, you need to figure out what is important to you. If you want to make more money, perhaps writing more vampire stories is the way to go. But would that really make you happy in the bigger picture? Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  59. Buck -- Money would be nice and probably my real preference at this point in time. Still I hate the thought of hacking out something to please the masses that is not genuinely consistent with my own beliefs. And I'm not totally dismissing vampire stories, but if I were to write one I think it would be way different than most of the others out there.



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