On my 'Philosophy of Writing'
Where I explain in probably too much length my views on writing and storytelling
I thought it would be worthwhile to write a brief article on my ‘Philosophy of Writing.’ More specifically, on the reasons why I write, and why I write the way I do. Why I feel it’s important to write and, at the same time, to read what others have written.
Personally, I’ve always been attracted to stories, though perhaps obsessed is a better term. As a child, I loved hearing stories from my extended family, and as I discovered books became equally entranced with the stories they told as well. This extends to the cinema, serialized shows, plays, comics, and even video games. Any method of telling a story, though I do have preferences.
So, child me started to learn to tell stories, usually just poor imitations of adult stories. This branched out into writing stories as I went through education, and eventually led me to want to write professionally. There’s something unique about the experience of reading, the way it engages the imagination to fill out the world and events being described. I find that to be an incredibly powerful experience, the writer’s ability to conjure up images and feelings with mere words. It’s akin to many ideas of magic.
It may as well be magic, in many respects. Writing is common, niches exist that reward even mediocre quality, but the writer who achieves near-universal appeal is a very rare thing. The books everyone has heard of, the films everyone has seen, and such are quite unique from the larger volume of content that’s available. Why is this? What’s the big difference?
It could be explainable by things like talent, practice, and effort. Those certainly play a part, as does luck I’m sure. While all those things are necessary to produce great work and to get it noticed, it’s more than just that combination.
The way I look at it is that great work is produced by sincerity to the story being told. It takes all the above attributes to technically write or tell a story, but even the most technically proficient story-telling is limited by how sincerely these elements portray the story being told.
One of the easiest examples of what I mean is when you come across someone writing about something you know quite well and you can clearly tell the writer in question doesn’t quite grasp the subject. This is the source of the “Write what you know” aphorism, in addition to the fact that readers seem to possess some kind of intuitive sense of authenticity. It’s hard to write sincerely about something you haven’t experienced, even with lots of study on the subject.
This doesn’t mean you have to become an expert on every single aspect of what you’re writing about. The important interactions are the human ones, the characters, and their responses to events and each other. You have to understand these things when you’re writing about them, to be sincere with them. If you’re writing a period Western it certainly helps to understand that time period thoroughly, however.
What are the implications of this idea? I think the main one is it should inform how a writer should choose to live. They should seek broad experience from many walks of life, first-hand and up close. Spend time speaking to people and listening to their stories as well as taking in stories produced by others in writing or otherwise. If you look at the personal history of many of the more famous writers in history, one thing becomes clear. They led interesting, often stormy, lives.
Additionally, it means there is no place in a story for things that do not directly serve that story’s telling. When things are inserted into a story to serve some other purpose this results in common writing faux pas. Self-inserts, Mary Sues, ham-fisted plots, aggressive messaging, one-dimensional characterization, and many more. A piece of writing should grow organically on its own once the conditions for its creation are met, consistently obeying its own internal logic.
So, that’s the long answer for my view on a ‘Philosophy of Writing.’ To summarize, sincerity to the story being told, built upon living a life full of experiences both positive and negative.