If you’ve been following this series of articles, you may be looking at your own work in a slightly different light.
You may have considered yourself to be a storyteller — someone who perhaps squeezes and few minutes out of a busy week to write tales which hopefully entertain and amuse, and maybe, just possibly, might attract the attention of those with the keys to a wider reading public, the editors and publishers of this world. Like many others in a similar position, you perhaps haven’t thought of the job of ‘writer’ as being anything special to anyone but yourself — you may even have bought into the idea that writing ‘isn’t a proper job’ and that there’s something not quite right with you for expecting to make any money out of it.
If you’ve followed the journey of the last couple of weeks, you might now be perceiving a deeper truth about what you’re doing.
The thing we call ‘fiction’ (from Latin fictio(n-), from fingere ‘form, contrive’) is no idle practice: the telling of stories is potentially the most powerful mode of communication known to humanity, and draws upon functions of thinking and creating which have faded away from other areas of living.
When you write a story, you are tapping into a level or facet or attribute of creation which enables you to transmit to another human being something that no other form of communication can do. You are able to combine images, ideas and sequences into a form which can at its best impart to a reader something much more potent than simply an image, an idea or a sequence might be able to do in isolation: you are speaking a language far older than our current culture and ultimately far more powerful.
Even a simple child’s story like 'Little Red Riding Hood' is composed of these elemental aspects of communication. As readers, our minds are enticed by the writer to conjure up figures, to put them through a series of actions, and to play a sequence of roles resulting in some kind of resolution. Complex tales like Moby Dick or David Copperfield or Catch-22 similarly evoke human-like shapes called ‘characters’ and have them act out sequences called ‘plots’ to produce strange and multi-faceted effects upon readers. While literary criticism toils to deconstruct all of this using semi-scientific language and methods, the truth is that fiction retains a degree of opaqueness when approached that way: the mode of communication we call ‘fiction’ has something of a senior quality to any attempt to analyse it or break it down.
You might be prompted to look at your own work with a new-found respect. Whatever you write, and however developed or undeveloped your work may be, there are two fundamental points about it which cannot be undermined: firstly, it is uniquely yours, even if it closely resembles another’s work; and secondly, it stems from somewhere beyond the reach of easy analysis. You have, in your work, it seems, a piece of pre-analytical, exclusive creativity. It cannot be claimed by another; it cannot be broken down by another.
That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. But it does mean that it is special.
How do you make it ‘perfect’? How do you magnify its specialness?