Fiction is a Fiction. (or: Fiction is History)

photo credit: Huffington Post


Let’s begin with a limerick, because they’re fun:

There once was a young man from Austin

who wrote stories one could get lost in.

But the actual cost:

‘Twas the plot that got lost

And his readers just wound up exhausted!

I have decided that, at least for now, I’m going to give up on writing fiction. There are a few reasons for this, but the most notable one is that I am really not good at it. This is not to say that I couldn’t be good, if I were to continue practicing, which I might do in my spare time, but I don’t think there will be much posting of fiction, at least on this blog. (Readers rejoice.)

My writing gifts (modest as they are) lie much more in the realms of non-fiction (read: short opinionated essays that require no research) and poetry, so I think for the most part I want to concentrate on these.

Fiction still appeals very strongly to me, but I have to confess a great deal of this appeal comes from the possibility of selling a work of fiction and reaping either financial rewards or notoriety. Neither of these should be goals of mine, at least not if I am writing purely for the sake of writing. If they end up being ancillary advantages, I wouldn’t turn them down, but if they are an objective, if they are an intent, then my work will be tainted, even if it ends up being well-respected. I have talked before about my feelings regarding bandwagon fiction, and though I am hardly alone or revolutionary in this outlook, I nevertheless feel that the perversion of writing (or the co-opting of it, perhaps) simply for the sake of financial gain leads to phenomena like this, and shortly thereafter what would previously have been called “romance” novels completely overwhelm the “Fiction and Literature” section at the bookstore.

I don’t want any part of this, and I do not wish to be a writer who succumbs to any emotionally dishonest trend. But let’s be realistic: I was light-years away from this objective anyway. The first step in making marketable fiction is to write something that interests people, and I haven’t done that yet, at least not in my fiction. But regardless, I want to at least nip in the bud the proclivity for sacrificing art, sacrificing the potential to make something truly meaningful, on the altar of success.

And just as a disclaimer, do not think I am of the opinion that all writers who have achieved a level of financial success or critical acclaim are doing something wrong. I am reminded of this verse, though it is perhaps only loosely applicable:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”  – Matthew 19:23-24

I think the same is perhaps true of people who are truly following a calling. Perhaps it is not impossible to remain artistically uncompromised following success, but it sure is freaking difficult. That’s why I don’t even want to start down that path at all. Instead, if you want to find me, I’ll be in the (pitifully meager) poetry aisle.


trying to turn the tide


in and out

we should be giving thanks

for this breath, even if we are using it

to do all this cursing.


i sure wish there was more happy art out there. It seems that every poem i come across on my reader (and mine are likely no exception) sound like this:

the twisted path of splintered shards

driving icicles, ravenous ravens, devouring

whole my scarred charred marred heart

Blah blah blah. It gets old. And again, i am not exempting myself from this. i am equally, if not more, tired of hearing myself whine about things in vaguely poetic form. Granted, pain is a very common impetus for art, and has historically produced some very good poetry, but it should by no means be considered the only source. True artists, of which i am not one, are able to express the entire gamut of emotions, including the ones we often think of as positive. In many ways, expressing joy or peace or contentment subtly and meaningfully through writing is much more difficult than expressing pain or sorrow. This is true for me, which is why i find myself only turning to writing when there is a darkness that needs revealing. But not only should i also be sharing moments of illumination and pleasure with others, i think ultimately i should be doing that much more often than the alternative.


i am sometimes prone to wagon-falling. Let’s see how long we can make this last. For the forseeable future, i am going to break out of the mold and follow the advice of saying nothing if i do not have anything nice to say. Let us hope this leads to positive posts, and not merely the lack of negative ones, and let us also hope that it helps me maintain originality and leads to sentences with less than two cliches in them, as the previous one had. If anyone cares to join me on this foolish quest to redeem poetry from the doldrums of gothic self-deprecation, i would love to hear from you.

i do not believe art needs to be wounded and limping to be good, and i also do not believe that merely because something is wounded and limping that it is good art. In fact, i think what passes for a painting of a rose in many cases is merely spilled blood, and is no more worthy to be considered art than children’s cartoons are considered theater. Bad art is easily masked by genuine pain. It is easily detected when trying to convey positive emotions, however, which might be why there is so little of this variety of art.

Let’s all do our part

chip in to save art!

If you like to write

then make something bright!

See? Terrible art is instantly recognizable when it’s happy.

Go out and write something grateful, something joyful, something that loves being alive. And if you can’t find this in you, then get up from your couch, put on pants suitable for the public, grab a light jacket just in case, go out your front door, lock it, and start walking until you see mountains. Then try again.

i am interested to see if anyone can muster this up. i am certainly going to try.


sucker pun

to hell with

doom and gloom

(get it?)


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   – Phillipians 4 : 4 – 8

Holding Fast to a Sinking Ship


While scanning through the comments of another blog, i found what appeared to be a calloused remark. The blog, it should be mentioned, was comprised almost entirely of original poetry, which some of you may have noticed is also, of late, my preferred vehicle of expression. The comment was this: “No one reads poetry anymore. Write a real novel and get paid.” i am forced to wonder at the motivations of the commenter. Were they truly expressing a disdain for things poetic? Were they attempting to help the writer by telling a hard truth? And what precisely constitutes a “real” novel? Does this imply that somehow poetry is fake? i will first concede that his point is mostly accurate. A fairly comprehensive resource for writers, Poets and Writers (despite the word “poet” being of first prominence in its name) nevertheless lists only two literary agents in the US who are willing to accept poetry manuscripts unsolicited. In comparison there are hundreds for fiction. The poetry section in my local bookstore is comprised of only two shelves, one of which contains mostly duplicate copies of The Iliad, and is tucked discretely into the most remote corner of the store. i would be surprised if even the employees knew it was there. Nearby, there are multitudes of shelves for fiction, so many in fact that several sub-categories are more abundantly stocked than poetry, most notably, “Teen Paranormal Romance,” which itself contains three packed-to-brimming shelves.

So the commenter’s point is valid, to some degree, though it was made as tactlessly as possible. But it certainly exposes that there are at least two philosophies about writing. The first is this commenter’s position: writing is a business, one in which certain strategies are viable and others are not. It is not wrong, and not impractical, and truly if someone wishes to pursue writing merely as a means to “get paid,” then there are obviously genres that are lucrative and those that are not. Poetry being the latter.

But i do not tend to hold this philosophy myself, for a myriad of reasons. Primarily, i have never seen writing merely as a means to an end, which is, i believe, what this particular theory reduces it to. It becomes no more than a task we perform, lumped alongside countless other efforts from which our heart is detached yet we perform nevertheless because the period at the end of that sentence is a dollar sign. i also believe that writing is art, not business. Again, there are many varieties of writing that are business, but poetry is not among them. No honest poet (and frankly no honest novelist either) does what they do for the money. Certainly if it becomes possible to make money from one’s art then it does not make one disingenuous for taking that opportunity. But if it is the goal from the outset, then something has been lost, chiefly, the point of writing in the first place. i find that i do not write for what i may get out of it, but ultimately for what it may get out of me, and for what others may gain through my writing. This, i think, tends to produce ultimately better writing, and the mark of what is better is not measured by my bank balance. It is measured by factors as nebulous and mysterious as the art of writing itself: great writing is that which is inspired, and that which inspires. It is that which cannot not be written, because both the writer’s soul and the world need it.

The world needs poetry, even if it doesn’t know it. It is a form, though commercially unpopular at the moment, that has existed for centuries, and will exist for as long as people write. It is the only way, sometimes, that man can express meaningfully the stirrings of his heart, and thus i will press on. Though it may not enable me to “get paid” as regularly or as much as i might wish, i cannot give it up simply because it does not thicken my wallet.

Though there were only two shelves, the poetry section contained work by artists that have been dead for centuries. Homer, Shakespeare, the anonymous writer of Beowulf, all are immortalized on that shelf. No book in “Teen Paranormal Romance” was published more than ten years ago. And ten years hence, a few may still survive, but i have my doubts.

Money comes, and is spent, and then is no more. Poetry, good poetry, will remain, and generations and people for years to come, God-willing, will be reading it and gleaning from it. So write on poets. It is you, and not those suspect chroniclers of lycanthropy, who will be remembered, for it is you who are touching the eternal.


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  – Matthew 6 : 19 – 20