Saturday, October 12, 2013

Novels and Why I Won't Write Them

I was told today that I should write a novel. I have absolutely no expectation of doing anything of the sort, but I do rather miss the thrill of writing, the feeling of a story flowing out of me and onto the page, sitting in one spot for hours and then emerging from the screen like a diver coming out of the sea. My writing is an uncertain and undirected thing, but, no matter its flaws, it can be so vivid to me that I think it actually happened. I have, while doing something completely innocuous, had an image flash through my head which I could not place, and after trying to remember for some while when it happened, realize that it was simply something I imagined for a story. 

But I cannot write a novel. I am not humble enough. I would want it to be real and fantastical, beautiful and painful, true and subtle. And if it fell short (which it inevitably would), I would give it up in frustration. I do not even know that I am capable of writing a worthless novel. My imagination is very useful for scenes and impressions, but I cannot sustain it for the length of a book. I cannot draw the reader in and capture him or her, not letting go until the last page. At least, I do not think I could. We never really know what we're capable of, do we?

I am much more comfortable with nonfiction. Nonfiction, whether it be about facts, or ideas, or feelings, is limited and safe. If I write about myself, I am limited by what I am; if I write about an event, I am limited by its duration; if I write to inform, I am limited by what I know. Fiction is an an endless expanse of nothing just waiting for someone to take some of it and craft it into a limitless variety of details and personalities and storylines. Perhaps fiction is simply a higher art than nonfiction. When God created the world, He created, in a manner of speaking, a work of fiction. That is not to say that it wasn't (and isn't) real: it's as real as anything material can be. But insofar as God created something where before there was nothing, something detailed and linear and complete, with original characters and plot and settings, He created a novel – a beautiful, terrible, fantastical fairy tale. And all the tales that came after are simply shadows of the one real story – the story that each and every one of us, from Adam to the Apocalypse, is part of. And that is why novel-writing is beyond me: it is too large and terrifying a task for my puny talents. I shall stick to writing about novels (among other things), for the present, and perhaps, in five years, or ten, or thirty, I may find myself capable. Or perhaps not, and that's all right too. Novels are not the only form of beauty we humans can create. There are so many, and we must each simply find which one is meant for us.

All images via tumblr.

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