Midway through my small-time directing career, I worked with a young woman named Sarah. She wanted to be a writer. I believe she was interested in becoming a novelist; she had a degree in English and wrote essays for her blog.
Sarah, A Blogger
Sarah was an oddly-blank young woman; her work was bland and noncommittal. She acted in that particular way that casual hobbyists act, without fear or pride. Her writing, which she was deadly serious about, lacked merit.
She Wanted To Write Important Novels
Sarah liked my way of working a great deal; she wanted to learn how to apply my performative principles to her writing, because she wanted to be a wealthy and famous novelist someday. She saw how my teaching transformed the serious actors into legitimate contenders in the art form, and she came to me several times asking how she could improve her approach to writing.
What Was Wrong?
Sarah needed a top-to-bottom renovation in her approach to writing. Her energy was so stale, and so indifferent, and she was so out of touch with the reality of her position and circumstance in life, that it was as if her thought was never able to fully brush against the page.
Writing That Floats
Her words were hollow, or at the best, inflated with sentimentality, assumed clarity, and pretentious ignorance. I worked with Sarah several times on her writing, and she began, very slowly, to come up against the fact that her craft was going to take second place to her life choices unless she made some serious changes to the way she had arranged her life.
How Did She Float?
Let’s look at some of the main areas in which Sarah’s situation blocked her ability and stunted her innate capacity to create.
- Sarah came from a grossly-enmeshed culture of myopic religion with a family-before-all mindset. She was almost wholly absorbed in a large family of origin that vacationed together, overshared financial details together, and interfered freely in each other’s dating and married life.
- Sarah had been saturated, from birth, with an innate belief in her rightness and goodness as a female. She had been, as it were, brainwashed with the idea of womanly superiority and moral character. In a sense, Sarah worshipped herself. In this, she lacked any perspective whatsoever, and passed judgement on any and all persons who did not live up to her inflated and grossly-inaccurate ideas of morality and justice.
- Building upon the second point, Sarah had no conception of the inner life of man. She had no inner life herself, and had been taught that males exist solely to serve the whims of virginal females. Her ideas of sexual purity and gendered obligation were deep and entrenched.
There were issues beyond these, but these three points are the main areas in which Sarah attempted, and failed miserably, to translate her lived experience into functional fiction.
What Is Functional Fiction?
Fiction works when it connects to the inner life of the receiving party; Sarah could not connect to any other person’s inner life without taking into account the place from which she was beginning.
Sarah Didn’t Take Her Life Into Account
Reality is the starting point, the launching pad, from which actual fiction comes. If you are in ignorance or denial of your circumstances, your fiction, however labored-over, will not function, because your audience will find no live human energy to connect to within the work.
Where Are You Now?
Look at your life; look at your origins. If you are hiding from your circumstances, or inflating your importance, your fiction will suffer for it. If you have divorced yourself from reality, you will find yourself incapable of commenting productively upon reality.