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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

WOTH cover smallAs I continue to work my way through “Winter on the Hill“, the same questions arise as with all my novels: for whom do I write?

I know I have a small readership, because you have written to me and said so, and I am indeed grateful for your company. But in the main, I am writing for myself, and since you’ve not paid any money for that novel, you must forgive my self-centred priorities as I filter what is essentially a personal reality, through the art of my fiction.

Since I began the novel, in December, all our lives have changed, yet many of the themes I thought I was exploring – things like freedom and it’s curtailment by powerful forces, also the nature and importance of “truth”, have all come into sharper focus in recent months, though for none of the reasons I originally imagined.

Our isolation, the mothballing of work, the closure of shops, pubs, restaurants, the mere fact we could no longer travel to the countryside, indeed everything Western materialist culture is based upon – all these things have been called into question, and with them the very meaning of our lives. This has had me turning to philosophy, to the great gabblers of “meaning”, at least from a secular perspective. Also, since philosophers speak a difficult language, I have turned to those who can best translate them into English for the rest of us.

My characters enable me to explore my actual life, through their fictional existence. The storm of my thoughts is filtered back to a calmer essence through their thoughts and their dialogues. Thus, their stories explain my self back to me. This is a long way from “writing for the market”, like the glib writing coaches used to tell us. But since I never could grasp “the market”, and no longer have a use for it, it matters not.

It’s a strange way of going about things, I know. My first novels, written when I was a lad, were of the usual kind. They were a hundred thousand words penned in the naive belief a publisher would fall over themselves to publish me. Then I would be able to show my mum my books on the shelves at WH Smith. That would have been a very fine thing indeed! But, but alas, not to be.

Publishing’s not the game I thought it was, which is difficult for a writer to come to terms with, especially one that can’t stop writing. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of growing up since then.

A novel is a big undertaking. The shorter ones are a year in the writing, the longer ones two or three. To inhabit the world of the story for so long is a very pleasurable and transformative thing. It is meaningful, but not in the same sense as the work can ever mean to anyone else. Others must take from my stories what they can, which is the by-product of fiction. The author is always king of his own domain.

Blogging is another important voice for a writer. Again, I know some of you do read me here because you write to tell me so, and again I am grateful for that. I note however that, although my number of “followers” is inching its way up, the actual reach of the blog – the hits – is declining in line with the general decline of blogging anyway. I calculate I am back now to where I was in 2012, which highlights the essentially personal nature of blogging. You don’t do it to become rich, or famous. You do it because not to do it leaves you bloated with words unspoken.

Writers then are merely channels for thought. We open ourselves, and our thoughts pour through us onto the page. Some of us have millions hanging on our words, others a few dozen, some none at all. It doesn’t really matter. “Reach”, “penetration”, these are words for the sellers of things, not writers.

But back to “Winter on the Hill”. It seems to have led me on a journey through the mass-trespasses and the working class movements of the 1930s, to the songs of Ewan McColl, to the apparent rout of resurgent leftist, collectivist politics in more recent times, to say nothing of that most startling of neo-con inventions: the post-truth world.

For explanations and solutions the novel has led me to the existentialist philosophers. I’m not enamoured of them ordinarily, but it’s hard to avoid their conclusions, and for which I quote Jordan Peterson, speaking towards the close of a lecture, delivered at the university of Toronto in 2016:

“If you lie you corrupt the system. If you lie enough, the system becomes so corrupt, it turns on you and becomes murderous. So, the price of freedom, as far as the existentialists are concerned – and this is buttressed by historical knowledge that they garnered during the 20th century – was that you have a moral obligation to speak the truth, to maintain the integrity of the state, as well as fostering your own psychological integration.”

So that’s what we do when we write; we tell the truth, at least in so far as we see it, as well as define the truth to our own satisfaction, as best we can. Others may not agree with our version of the truth, but if we can avoid deliberately lying, to ourselves and to others, it provides at least an honest starting point for debate. And if we are sincere in what we say, it contrasts sharply with the blizzard of deceit that now underpins the world of contemporary affairs that would deliberately deceive us as to the way things really are. As an individual voice it might not make much difference to the corruption of our futures. But such as the effort goes, and in my own small way, I lend my voice to it. If you write, and you’re sincere in what you say, you do the same.

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