Tag Archives: philosophy

Writing: Noble or Selfish?

4 Aug

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Perhaps it’s the inherent nature of a writer, or maybe it’s just me, but I spend a lot of time contemplating the nature of life and consciousness, and my place/purpose within the world. I wonder if I am a good person. Do I need to be doing more? Such as administering AIDS vaccines to children in Africa, volunteering at a crisis hotline, joining the Peace Corps, becoming a pastor, working as a counselor, or just in general doing favors for others?

Lately I have been concerned about writing. By choosing to be a fiction writer, am I being selfish? Or am I being noble? Are those the only two choices? And what do I do if it turns out that fiction writing is a selfish activity after all? Does it even matter?

Reasons Why Writing is Selfish

Look, I write for myself, okay? I do this because I love it. I’m betting that’s why you do it, too. Why else would you put in the time and effort, and submit to the emotional beating that success requires, if you didn’t love it?

Writing lets me escape. I indulge my fantasies, following my brain on a creative tour of possibilities that I invent. The worlds I create come from me, and I find them pleasing. That’s a little self-indulgent, don’t you think?

And even after the writing process itself is done, I then subject other people to my work, asking for their feedback. Afterward, I impose my creations onto literary agents, some of which don’t appreciate it (others do, but we’ll get to that later), followed by publishers (again, some of whom will not appreciate the submission), then reviewers, bloggers, and finally readers.

I pump up my own career, blog about my projects, and network for the purpose of furthering my popularity/sales.

Me, me, me. I, I. I. My story, my characters, my book, my reviews, my place on the NYT list, my advancement, my career, etc.

You have to admit, it sounds really self-possessed.

Reasons Why Writing is Noble

Now the flip side.

Yes, I write for my own enjoyment. But if I didn’t also write for others, then I probably wouldn’t try so hard to get my stories out there. I and the rest of my contributors came from Fictionpress. No one was paying us to write those stories and post them. We posted because writing was pleasurable, but also because our stories made others happy.

We try so hard to get published because we know that our stories will touch someone’s life. We can give them an escape from their issues, an inspiration to try/do/succeed, and role models to base decisions off of. Along the way, we can educate them about issues and human nature, and create warnings for the future.

Fiction writing is an art, and I believe that our stories can enrich the soul as much as any painting or piece of classical music.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, Romeo and Juliet, etc. These books and many more entered our consciousness and created universal truths. They encourage us to rise to a greater level of humanity. In this respect I can say that writing is noble.

Conclusion

Ultimately I think fiction writing as an activity is a mixture of selfishness and nobility. I suppose it depends on your purpose and message, but overall I don’t think that writing should be disdained as a selfish and/or self-serving activity.

Am I a good person because I am a fiction writer? No. Am I a bad person because I am a fiction writer? Again, no. Writing is an expression of the mind, and what we choose to express makes us selfish or noble people. No matter how hard we try, I don’t think there will ever be any fiction writing on the same level of nobility as, say, anonymously curing cancer while simultaneously solving world hunger, but on the other hand, someone’s got to create spiritually-enriching entertainment. I enjoy it, so why not me?

What do you think? Do you ever feel bad for choosing to be a writer instead of a doctor, astronaut, U.N. peacekeeper, etc.? Let’s discuss in the comments.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

Advertisements

Birthday Reflections

25 May

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Today I turn 21 years old.

18 is nice, but in the United States, 21 marks the age when you’re really considered a grown-up. When you’re 21 you can go anywhere uninhibited, and your driver’s license transforms into a free pass to all those ‘adult’ places you’ve never been before.

For me, 21 also marks the end of an era. It splices my life in two; the time before and after technical adulthood. Am I still a relatively young writer? Yes. But at 21 I feel as if I’ve moved beyond the age where my accomplishments are impressive.

When I was younger I swore I would be published while I was still a teenager. To me, attaining that goal would prove something about me; that I was more talented, smarter, better prepared, and most importantly, a better writer than those older than me.

I’d always been on the forefront of accomplishments for my age group: I walked at 9 months old, spoke in complete sentences before age 2, and finished my first book at sixteen. I had a worshipful following on Fictionpress. In school I was always taller, faster, sharper, and got better grades on my essays than most everyone around me. It was only natural that I would get an agent and be published before 20.

I am now ashamed of this arrogance. My self-worth was defined by my accomplishments, not my kindness, compassion, or loyalty. My arrogance blinded me, and I did not realize that my manuscript was barely ready for an agent. In my ignorance I didn’t know that publishing takes years of hard work and endurance. When I finally signed with my agent at 19 I was forced to confront the fact that I would NOT be published before 20. I would not be a prodigy teen writer.

When I tell people how old I am, they are always amazed, because I appear so much older. I have a great job as an HR Manager, I own a house, I have an agent, and until recently I was engaged to be married. I used my age as a tool to instantly make people impressed, to make me feel good about myself. But I feel that as I get older this tool becomes less effective. One day I’ll be just another grown woman with a list of accomplishments under her belt, no different from anyone else.

As I got closer to my birthday I had to confront the fact that soon it wouldn’t be good enough that I’ve merely written 5 novels. I’ll have to have written 5 GREAT novels. I’ll have to prove that I’m an excellent reviser, that I can work on deadline, that I can appeal to the masses and successfully promote my books. And my age won’t have a thing to do with all that.

Am I a good friend? Am I a good girlfriend/fiancé/wife? Do I do the right thing, even though it’s hard? Do I work even though I want to be lazy? Do I keep a positive outlook even though I want to curl into a ball and despair?

These are the things that are important now, not a list of checkmarks with an age attached to it. Quality, not quantity, is what I need to be concerned with.

Being here at Let The Words Flow has taught me so much about publishing and writing, but it’s also taught me something more important than facts and technique: humility. In this group, I’m not the only one who started writing young. I’m not the first to get an agent, or a publishing deal. And in the face of losing the trinkets I clutched to me to prove my worth, I had to realize the truth: I am valuable for more than my ‘accomplishments’ at my young age. I am valuable as a person, and a friend; for what is inside my heart and not always what I do with my hands.

LTWF has also taught me that we all have different stages of ‘ready.’ Some people are ready at 16 to be published. Some people at 20, others at 40, and still others at 80. Life works out when it’s right for you, and age doesn’t have any effect on your value.

I’ve learned so much, and I know that there is so much more to discover. I will only get better with time. 21 does not represent a closed door, but just another milestone. And today I’m going to celebrate making it this far, and be glad to enter into a world where finally everything is possible. The journey has only just begun.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

Thought Artists

6 Apr

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Hey all, Savannah here. I’m going to get all mystical and epic in the article below, so hold onto your pants and hopefully I’ll blow your mind:

 Why do they call us writers? Sure, we write down symbols onto paper, or type them into rectangles of light, but that’s not what we really do. Anyone who makes little symbols is a ‘writer.’ They might as well call us Breathers. The true purpose of writing, particularly fiction writing, is something we have covered up so much with terms and elitism and industry and genre that we’ve forgotten, or never really knew, the essence of the Craft.

 Today I’m going to make sure you fully understand what I’m talking about, because if you truly want to know your purpose and place in the universe, then you must first know the center of your being and the elements of your calling.

 So let me tell you what you really are: A maker and artist of Thoughts.

 Writing is not about symbols, speech, or words, though we can love them because they are extensions of the true purpose. No, writing is truly about creating and showing images to a reader’s internal eye; creating impressions of senses more internal and real than any painting or movie.

 Think of it this way (we’re going to start from the top and work our way down to the building blocks): Ink-shapes on paper are stand-ins for spoken words. Spoken words are stand-ins for meanings inside our heads. It’s the meanings inside our heads that truly matter. Therefore, all communication, whether through speaking, writing, singing, etc., is done to express our internal feelings and ideas. When you write you are engaging in a form of telepathy; your ink-shapes allow us to share thoughts.

 That is why connotation (the implied meaning of a word, versus denotation, the dictionary definition of a word) is so important. Connotation tells you how to feel about a word, separate from its technical meaning. That is why writing is a careful dance balancing fact with interpretation, and as conductors of this dance we choose what senses and emotions to show our audience, putting on a performance that exists solely inside their heads, the words on a page like a movie reel playing out a scene the audience can participate in and modify.

 Is it any wonder so few people understand the importance of writing, or our call to it?

 From now on, when you are working on your projects, I challenge you to consider this concept and remember that you are ultimately creating a work of thought-art. This outlook has helped me through all of my novels and brought me back on track when my writing seemed shallow, or when I told too much instead of showing it.

 Humans are storytellers. Stories are how we access our emotional side. There is more wisdom in a story with a moral than a simple sentence that essentially states the same fact. Remember that; remember why we have stories and your role in creating them. Remember that every time you sit down to write you are taking a paintbrush to the mind of your readers and painting them a new world.

 I feel I should end this article with something spiritual, so Selah, all you artists of the mind, and have a wonderful day.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.