No, I don’t know what that title is supposed to mean either.
Today, you lucky folks get the post that I meant to write last week before I forgot what it was I wanted to write about, although, actually, it’s even more relevant to my brain-thinkings today than then.
Today, I want to ponder the role of the writer.
In English lately, we have, to the joy of just about everyone, been reading poetry by Tennyson. And, apparently, some of his poems are about his role in society — should he participate, should he not; should he use his writing to change the world for the better, should he write to entertain — Tennyson really did not know what he was doing. And he’s not the only one.
It’s been around a century and a half since Tennyson wondered, but we still don’t know the answer. What do we write for? For me, this is a constant struggle. Of epic proportions.
But I am digressing already. I find it a difficult issue to talk about, because if you happen to look at certain things on my tumblr blog (shameless self-advertisement is my middle name), you’ll know that I’m just a tiny bit opinionated about certain things. If you ever read this blog you’re reading right here and now, you’ll know that I love writing and do it on an as-near-daily-as-possible basis. Therefore, wouldn’t logic suggest that I throw all those opinions into that writing?
Yes. But also no.
A lot of the writing that I put up on this blog is politically, morally, or philosophically minded. In some of it, I shout my views to the rooftops and then a little bit further, and in other bits, it’s a little less obvious what I’m getting at — or at least, I think so.
But then I look at my current WiP novel and think, isn’t this a better way to do things? I’ve never understood ‘art for art’s sake’, but ‘art for personal rumination’s sake’ seems like a reasonable suggestion. Many of the views expressed in my WiP are the exact opposite of what I, the writer, believe. Many of those views come from just the one character, it’s true, but he happens to be the MC. In short, if I read this book rather than writing it, I’d hate it because the main character is an arsehole and a misogynist. But, because I’ve written this guy, and understand how his brain works, I love him. I empathise. I see him for what he is — a person. I like to think I’m doing what a writer should be doing — putting an unbiased mirror up to society’s face and letting it look for the flaws itself with the hope that it finds them all. Lecturing through metaphor and shoving change into people’s faces without consent seem like much more vulgar ways to change the world.
But what of that would actually get through to a reader who didn’t know me or my views? Would they think that my MC was a reflection of me? Would they see it as a mirror? Would they see the flaws? Would they think I was shying away from tackling the issues of the day, just as I always criticise Tennyson for?
The short answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know if writers should be entertaining us or teaching us, making us think or telling us what they think we should think, being obvious or being obtuse, being the great activists of the time or the great historians.
Basically, I’m just like Tennyson.