Paul Alan Ruben

Paul Alan Ruben

Friday, February 1, 2013

Writing & Narrating Is Apples and Apples: Green and Red

I’m allowing myself an hour to assert an aesthetic bridge between writing and narrating, to connect one to the other with the hope of better understanding what I suspect writers and narrators share.

I’ve been at it 4 minutes, and after having carefully thought about what I’d like to say while taking a shower, as I dried myself, the thoughts that seemed so resiliently clear under the driving water, have evaporated. And maybe here’s a relationship already: The writer thinks, wow, do I have an idea, brilliant, insightful, I can’t wait to get going and the narrator thinks, oh, I’m so, so right for this book and then, maybe it all comes to fruition, maybe it doesn’t. Creating is a bitch.

So far, this feels more like a blog, randomly meandering around thoughts not baked. My past blogs take me forever to write: Often over a dozen hours each. Here, with 49 minutes leftguilt already plaguing the back of my mind, as I’d planned to work on a short story this morning and for reasons I’m certain many writers share (all fitting into a bowl labeled procrastination), I’m now finally getting to what I’d planned to do when the time to do it was right, which it isn’t really now, or I wouldn’t feel guilty.

My goal for these writing and narrating relationship posts is to create a dialoguewith myself and narrators and writers who understand storytellingthat ultimately would like to uncomfortably suggest commonalities shared by these disciplines. I like uncomfortably because that word indicates a reflexive openness to critiquing myself and others, always with the purpose of digging deeper for insight rather than criticizing for the purpose of asserting right or wrong.

In the shower I still remember thinking: What is the aesthetic core shared by writers and storytellers? And that caused me to wonder: What is a writer? What is a storyteller? And then, are Philip Roth and Danielle Steel both writers? Are Aunt Mary andfill in your favoriteboth storytellers? (I resist naming names of narrators I am close to because it’s simply exclusionary of narrators I am not close to but who are equally talented and that feels uncomfortable).

Before diving presumptuously into defining writeran act of banal conceit begging for insight that I imagine is similar to someone who, say, jumps off a high diving board into cement as a way of illuminating the meaning of life. But whatever, I’m down to 27 minutes.

By way of backtrackingI use too many em dashes and can’t ever seem to say what I mean without a preface (ever wonder why writers write a preface? I do. Why not just write the damn book)it feels important to suggest that, for me, when discussing writing and acting, terms like good and bad, I like or I don’t like, are aesthetically useless and oddly dangerous because personalizing a feeling and then reifying it, as if this abstract, now concretized, in any way works towards discovery of what’s aesthetically salient, seems misguided. At least to me. In short (and here, I like the F bomb, I use it liberally in my fiction, but for this blog’s purpose I’ll just use F), who F*****cares what I like or what you like? Who cares what I or you think is good or bad? Those notions entertain at the dinner table, cocktail party, bar, but really, they’re intellectual conversation stoppers. Meaning, Oh, I love your work. What actually does that imply? Who cares???

Fifteen minutes to go and, mercifully, my point: Philip Roth is an artist; Danielle Steel is a hack. Aunt Mary is a hack; you know who is an artist.

When I write fiction, I (Paul, and whoever Paul is, thinks he is) employs form (craft) and intellect (brought to me by language) to create a story that resists conventional certainty about who and what we are. When Danielle writes, she embraces conventional certainty; she already knows what we already know about ourselves: The result, a hack regurgitates what we know and feel we already know we should feel, conventionally. When Aunt Mary narrates, she modulates as a way of emphasizing what we already know we should know about how we should feel: The result, we feel what we already think we should feel, conventionally speaking. AM is a hack.

What do I aspire to as a fiction writer? I think, in a very particular way, the same as what the storyteller aspires to. We both uncomfortably interrogate a story about people and events we blindly discover we know only to the degree that we don’t, and we insist, uncomfortably, that’s okay.

Time is up. Next post a very little background about my MFA writing experience. I meant to get to that in this post and would have if I rewrote it. I also would have cut down on the em dashes and colons. 

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