About Writing

There is at least one thing I have learned about writing. Before I tell what it is, I need to make one point clear. I have never wanted to claim of being remotely resembling a writer. When I told my bank my books have been stolen and sold, the question, “Are you a writer?” popped up.

The book stolen is my dissertation. It is academic work. It is not considered fiction. My project is the study of fiction, or to put it more accurately, how I have appreciated and approached six representative fictional works of six writers.

That is all.

Liberal Arts Colleges, either in themselves or those forming part of big universities, have a special major teaching students how to write poetry, fiction, and drama. Suddenly I cannot remember its name.

But today I only want to say a few words about what I have discovered about writing.

To boil it down to the bottom, writing is your way of talking to yourself.

Wang Anyi says she feels very lonely, so she writes and hopes others will help lighten her load a little bit.

Loneliness is an eternal state of human existence. And you have to learn to face it.

Most artists, I dare to suggest, feel the same. They paint, or they sing, or they compose because they feel they have something they have to express. If they do not feel the need, they would not have to bother about acceptance, about what to say, about how to say, about how to say it cleverly without being found out, about negotiating a degree of success the society would be willing to allow them to have.

Those that directly take fame to their first priority would seldom get the chances they want because other people would know what you want and they would be too quick to snip your desire out even before you yourself know it.

Therefore, it is wise not to take fame as your first priority. Success is different. But fame is too fleeting to be grasped.

If you happen to be a woman, the game is especially hard. Only men who are extremely successful, extremely secure in their place, and keep their good ways might not give a woman a hard time. So is true with extremely successful women.

Women of your own age take you to be their nemesis. Young men who are about your age but who cannot compete effectively might be your worst nightmares.

Although in an ideal world, the primary purpose of writing is to increase understanding. If you can get it, that would be very good.

But how much understanding can you get, or hope for?

Even Woolf says, how flawed it is, even the best of human relationships! But she still invests in these fundamentally flawed relationships.

I felt Wang Anyi feels the same as Woolf does. They know something is fundamentally flawed, but they still do it anyway. Neither of them had given up. But then Woolf still chose to end her own life, at the age of 59?

I cannot quite understand her.

Welty is one of my beloved writer. Her life is so tenacious. She has lived into her nineties. And she wrote so much.

Welty is much more positive and optimistic. She believes writing should create intimacy between total strangers, sometimes drawing tears out of a stone.

I think Welty has more confidence in the power of words. She must be very courteous in her life. One source told she had to politely receive sudden visitors at her home.

Music. Painting. All because the artist feels he or she has something that has to be expressed. Then they must find a way to express it.

And that is about it.

One point I am sure: For a very long time I have been extremely angry. I’d rather throw everything away than being treated like that.

What I do not like is it seems someone is determined to find out what my weakness is, then they will go ahead and exploit it. Even if my weakness happens to be my niceness, they will go ahead and exploit it.

That is the thing I hate the most.

I don’t think I belong to the type who will willingly tell them what I care or what I value. At one moment I may want one thing, at the next I may pick it up, tangible or not, and throw it out of my window. And the two moments are just one second apart.

Things change too fast.

You never know when you are going to arrive at one place. You never know when you are departing for another place.

All Rights Reserved. Xianfeng Mou

November 18, 2010

 

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