Sunday, June 9, 2013

Deep and Meaningful

Is it just me, or is it a mistake to try and sound deep and meaningful in writing? Maybe it's just that I don't really feel about myself that way. I'm not talking about writing have multiple layers, mind you; I mean trying to enforce a philosophy in a book or a poem, trying to get an idea out there that only ever makes sense in the context of the writing.

Considering the poetry I've written this year, I've tended to go the opposite route, writing about personal experiences and thoughts in my head, and aiming to write about that very limited - but not necessarily shallow or meaningless - moment or relationship. (I've written a heck of a lot of poetry this year, rather than fiction, so there'll be something of a focus on the poetry in this post, I'm afraid.)

I've been writing a lot about friendships, more specifically the ones that didn't work out (more commonly than those that are ongoing and wonderful.) Sometimes, there have been explicit references to events in my life, other times it's been a more general "me and you" poem that, rather than dealing with the specific reasons that relationship imploded upon itself, I've tried dealing with the idea that a relationship, more generally speaking, has ceased.

This leads naturally on to wondering what it is about me that caused any of these friendships to fail. I try not to dwell on that - I know it's not healthy - but it does come up. I speak about myself in metaphors when it comes to that, but again: it's not an attempt to be deep and meaningful. I'm not trying to say something about life. I'm not trying to explain why X happens to everyone. It's a personal exploration of my flaws and faults, but in the context of everything else, what it was about the other person that might have made these particular aspects of my personality so...negative? Unbearable?

It gets to be a bit too much, but you know what? It's just me.

Maybe, you might argue, it is meaningful. And sure, I'll bite. There is - there has to be - some meaning to the poems. But it comes from me, and it's only as deep as anonymity and the vague essentials can reach. That, dear reader, is a shallow pool indeed, in a majority of poems.

What certainly needs clarifying is that I don't set out to write a poem to say something to the world. Often, for me, the poems just "happen". Yes, I do have to think about the words to use, but the essence of the poem is there already, and that's what makes me write it. There's something within me that needs saying, and the words slot into place more easily, even when I sit down and attempt to force something onto paper.

I've tried the grandiose statements about life and death before. Tried it, and failed it, because it doesn't come naturally when my experiences are what they are: mine. Attempting to speak about generally about something so universal as life and death, or the lackthereof of either, is to generalise about the billions of individuals, the uniquely constructed bodies, souls, minds and personalities of our species. There is nothing "general" about us but our anatomy and our surveys.

I'm not saying we shouldn't attempt to talk about life or death. I'm not saying we can't talk about our species. I'm not saying that, as writers, we can't be "deep" or "meaningful" with our work. What I am saying is that we shouldn't set out to do that, especially not if we haven't first lived a deep and meaningful life. While it's not always true that we should write what we know - because (a) that could be boring and (b) it's not necessarily going to be the best story/poem/article we could ever write, especially not if we've lived a sheltered life - but in thise case, maybe that's a good idea.

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