This, above all:

This, above all: To be God's best for The Coach and for Anna

Monday, April 10, 2006

Writing and compassion

The Polymath (i.e., my brainiac friend, P) thinks the strength and beauty of Alice Munro's fiction lies in her compassion for her characters. I agree. (That, and her richly connotative language.)

Author Crawford Kilian in his blog highlights the importance of the writer's attitude:
Some successful writers just transcribe what their inner authors dictate, and have no idea whether it's any good. Paul Theroux thinks about the act of the writing, and the attitude of the writer, and makes that an important part of his storytelling.
My lack of compassion for my characters and lack of attitude to my subject (what my teacher says is my story's lack of authorial voice, though the literary glossaries define authorial voice as something else, dagnabbit, getting so confused!)--these hinder the piece I am struggling over.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, why it’s so hard for me to sit still, read and write. I have tons of books worth every other writer’s while, but only recently regained the spirit to open them. I have stories that boil in me, yet all I’ve drummed up in the past five months is wanting.

I have every possible tool: the (requisite?) Apple, journals, and fountain pens. I have my own nook carved from the walls. It is mine alone.

I have time, perhaps not that much, but there is time, nonetheless.

The Coach is giving and forgiving. He gives me space. He washes the dirty dishes I leave lying for days. He doesn’t mind the mess of a week. He overlooks the unmade bed, takes out the garbage, cleans the toilet, lets me oversleep in the morning, irons his own clothes, and orders takeout. He kisses me while I sleep, hugs me from behind as he passes me in our home's teeny hallways, drives me to school.

And I just sit here, bleeding.

Aye, I think I need to go back to the reasons why I write.


paul said...

the tag 'polymath' freaks me, j. it creates certain expectations in people who don't know me--and it makes me feel like i actually have to do something great to live up to it.

i'd like to write something a little long about compassion and writing, but it means i actually have to concentrate and freaking _write_, hehe. but you know what i'm gonna say--you don't lack compassion, believe me, whether in your writing or in real life. and whatever your teacher says about 'authorial voice,' you don't have to believe it--some of the best stuff i've read actually does away with the bossy intrusion of the author's voice; it's written in the character's actual voice, or brain-voice. that's tougher to do.

in short: writers with strong authorial voices are probably very good/great _stylists_, but that alone doesn't make them great writers.

if that makes sense.

janet said...

don't worry; half the population don't know what it means. :)

but, yeah, i understand: i'll leave your first name out so people won't know. one of my classmates in law school was the daughter of one of the country's most brilliant legal minds and it killed her to have to keep up.

that said, i still really wanna call you the polymath! just between us and, err, the really very few who read this comment.

thanks, p, for your comments. but feeling ko talagang wala yung compassion ko, at least in that story i am still struggling over. :)

yes, please, write about writing and compassion! would love to read it.