Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Audacious Courage of the "Unknown Writer"

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The Secret Thread would like to wish a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a very special little girl and treasured friend of this blog... CEL, may God bless you on this day and always! Happy 3rd! We love you!

This post is in fact my reply to the previous two posts from my illustrious partner in crime, Mutt Ploughman, concerning the status of what he too-modestly refers to as his "novel." Anyone who has read the posts would, at the very least, agree that at this point Mutt can let go of the beloved lifeline of those quotation marks... it's a bit ironic that in these posts, he's been constantly writing about his (in my view impressive) will to continue on with this project and see it to its fruition, whatever that may be, and yet he still won't call the project by its true name! So first, an open call and challenge to Mutt to DITCH THE QUOTES, and call a spade a spade... declare to the world the reality of this novel-in-progress... even you would have to admit that there's a difference between planning and writing a "novel" and planning and writing a NOVEL.

If you ask me, you're doing the latter. No question about it. As if I had any doubt of that before (after reading the recently-completed first draft of the Prologue), your vivid and interesting imagining of the opening chapter, as outlined in the previous post, dispels the fog around this question entirely. This is a legitimate work-in-progress. You are at work on a NOVEL.

Which brings me to the subject of this short post: the audacious courage of the "unknown writer" (to borrow a phrase from Mutt again, see the end of his Journal #16 post). That is what strikes me most as I read these most recent entries and consider what Mutt is well on his way towards accomplishing. Think about what he is attempting to do: this 30-something, reasonably well-educated (better than me anyway!), extremely well read, semi-life-experienced and still fairly young man is attempting to imagine the life of a father raising children in a time he never lived in, a state and town he's also never lived in, experiencing things he's never known. Walter Brogan's life experience is, I think it's safe to say, almost completely foreign to Mutt's own. He's living within a milieu that has almost totally vanished from the face of the earth. What I'm getting at is: virtually ALL of what Mutt has to deliver needs to come straight out of his own head and heart. Now of course I know, this is always the novelist's task. But that is what I am asking you, reader, to pause and consider: the "audacious courage" that is required to attempt something like this, especially if you haven't attempted anything like it before.

Put yourself in Mutt's shoes for a second. Imagine you have a blank page before you and a pen in your hand... or a blank document glaring at you from the computer screen, your hands resting lightly on the keyboard. You've decided you want to write a historical novel about a man raising a family during the Depression in a different state. Where would you even begin? Think about that for about two seconds and, I would wager, the doubts and fears over your ability to pull off such a task will begin to creep in within seconds. What weapon does the young and unknown would-be writer have with which to fight off such demons?

I submit that it's audacious courage, more than anything else. Others might call it pride or ego, and there's no question there's an element of that in there somewhere... there always is when it comes to creating any artistic work, whether it's merited or not. But it takes genuine guts to take on such a writing project, because what you're essentially saying is, I believe I have it within me somewhere to faithfully convey the realities of this life, this age, and not only so, but make it interesting and compelling and even edifying to others who might read it. I realize that there are other voices saying other things inside the head of the writer, and those other voices cause incalculable conflicts in the writer's mind and soul... see Mutt's previous posts for a pretty accurate account of such struggles. Confidence and courage, more than anything else it seems, are the keys to taking on a writing project of this magnitude. But just to begin in the first place means that you have these qualities within you somewhere. Whether they are there through the writer's own force of will or through Divine intervention is another question, and one that has been debated for a long time (for my money, it's probably some mixture of both). But the notion that they are needed to pull off something like this is, to me, beyond question.

Why am I writing these things? Obviously it's not for Mutt's benefit, because clearly he's aware of it already. Again, his posts, and the writing he's done so far, stand as monuments to his awareness of such things. It's largely from him and from observing his experiences as an "unknown writer" so far that I've learned them myself (though common sense testifies to these things to some degree as well). And it's certainly not because I see myself as a fledgling novelist or anything like that. I suppose it's in part to simply encourage Mutt to keep on writing, that's obvious. But more than all this, it's to testify to the greatness and mystery and importance of the vocation that is fiction writing. The man or woman who attempts such a Herculean task ought to be commended, for what they are trying to do is far more than entertainment or diversion. They are imagining new worlds for us, be they past worlds that already existed or new ones that never did. And when we visit these worlds, we often gain from the excursion some new insight(s) that helps us to live in the real one. Think about it: to want to give such a gift to others, and to believe that one can, through the sharing of one's writing talents is both a commendable and an audacious concept. I can only commend the courage of Mutt, and anyone else, who accepts such a mission. I have no doubt that the honest effort to deliver this gift, when undertaken with the sincerity and passion of one's entire mind and heart, will result in something truly good, and beautiful, and important.

Whether a million people read it, or three, doesn't in any way affect this truth. A lonely wild flower springing forth in the middle of an abandoned field somewhere proclaims loudly the Creator's greatness and glory, regardless if any living soul sees or smells it.


Aura McKnightly said...

I don't think there's any question about it. I did a survey around town and everyone is dead set on the fact that Mutt is working on a NOVEL.

Happy birthday to Corinne!!

Mutt Ploughman said...

Did they get that word already in St. Louis? Man, I gotta talk to my agents. They're supposed to have this UNDER WRAPS.

Hey priest+aura+senseless+Keira Knightley=some incubus born out of Fish's dreams: thanks for the b-day wishes, it is hard to believe that a certain little girl is 3 already.

Like to say thanks to Duke for this encouraging post. I suppose it is just hard not to feel like a pretender until you have something on a shelf to show for it. But I do think I have something legitimate going. The question is going to be whether I can stay committed enough to execute it. I feel a little less sure of myself now than I did last week, so this post is timely. But, that's the fickle nature of this kind of thing. I have to keep pressing on as I am not really close to finishing Chapter 1 yet, and it's this Chapter that to me gets the whole thing off the ground, if it is going to get off the ground. In other words, the writing I am doing right now is critical, and I have to summon up some of the guts you're talking about to keep it going. Gonna be hard to find the time. That's where this will really be a challenge. Hopefully I can work it in because I am very interested in what I am doing, and want to see if I can make it work. I appreciate your interest in the project and will count on you for some comments and early readings! Thanks again....