I began writing in my most vulnerable years. I was dumb and arrogant, as most teenagers seem to be, and I did my best to pour greatness into every sentence I wrote. But I was also lying to myself, writing about what I didn’t know, pretending to know, and I got caught and people could see that I wasn’t willing to let them in – I was building this wall to protect my true self from anyone who would be searching for it behind my words. There was nothing that belonged to me in the stories I wrote.
There’s this poem by a Romanian poet, Mihai Eminescu. It’s called To My Critics, and the last verses go like this:
It is easy to write verses
Out of nothing but the word.
It took me six, seven years to figure out that you have to be willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You can call it fiction, make it wear a camouflage, you can embellish, add or remove to your heart’s desire, but you know what’s true and what’s not. And deep down inside, on a mere subconscious level, the readers know it as well.
Whether you write literary fiction or thrillers, whether you write fantasy, science fiction, horror, what appeals most to us is the human character. And there’s no other person in the world you know better than yourself.
All we are doing are self-portraits. As simple that. We accumulate knowledge and wisdom and power, and we get our hearts broken, and we write. We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand.
Maybe this is the big difference, the so-called rift between commercial and literary fiction. There are writers and there are storytellers.
Storytellers weave beautiful, intricate stories. They carefully build settings, masterfully sculpt characters. Their stories make use of the reader’s imagination – they make him dream. And then there’s the other category, the ones who make us feel.
Ever read a paragraph of wonderful prose? Just words that seem to melt together to form a hint of perfection? An almost divine symphony that leaves you wanting for more? One word after another slowly unveiling the pale grandeur of the human mind. That can’t be made into a movie. It’s not a visual experience, it’s not a tangible universe that’s being described.
There are those who are willing to shut out the world and rummage through their minds for memories they wish they had forgotten. The good and the bad, the tragedies, the pain, the bitter melancholy that engulfs all moments of happiness. By being alone, even in the most crowded of places, an artist is capable of understanding the world around him. All that he has gained, all that he has observed, lies behind a wall. He can jump over it and find the much needed inspiration to create art, or he can choose to write words.
There’s this wall. And there’s the artist on the other side. He just has to jump.
This is the first part of a series of essays I’m currently writing. About writing, about art, about what it means to be an artist. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.