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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, May 14, 2007

keeping the jury out

For the past months, or even years, I have written this blog by simply sitting down at the keyboard and starting to type. When I first launched the blog I used to worry about what I was going to write about. I kept a separate Word document with ideas for blog-posts. I've long since given up that idea; usually I never went back to it to look. The blog is too informal and too unpaid for me to worry much about its content. I have a few regular readers, a larger circle of occasional readers, and a still larger circle of people who visit the site after making a search for some item of information, such as "writer's lifestyle" or "Mumbai mafia".

I hope that at least some of these people find what they want--or at least something that interests them. I feel a certain sense of responsibility (and guilt) that people might be looking to this blog as a source of accurate factual information. I can say that at least some of the information offered here as factual is also accurate--but that's about all I can say.

I began this post with the vague sense that I'm hitting a dry patch, or at least maybe running out of fresh ideas for blog-posts. Yesterday I was talking with my brother-in-law Mike, who had come down to Vancouver from the Okanagan as part of a Mothers Day get-together with my mother. He has enrolled in a truck-driving course for the summer, and as part of his research into the world of trucking has read a number of truckers' blogs, of which I understand there are quite a few. The process of reading each of these blogs came to the same end: he saw what the attitude of the writer/trucker was, and the posts then simply continued in the same vein.

When I pressed Mike to explain what he meant, he said that each trucker tended to have either a positive or a negative outlook on his or her experience, and then, whatever happened, each event would be seen and interpreted in light of that outlook. A "positive" trucker would see an event in a positive light, as confirming his or her viewpoint on life; a "negative" one would see it in a negative light, also confirming his or her view.

"When I got to that point I would just stop reading," said Mike.

Of course my first thought was: Uh-oh, what about my blog? What category am I in? Am in a category?

My next thought was: What would have to be different about those blogs to have encouraged Mike to keep reading?

Clearly what would keep him reading would be some kind of freshness, unpredictability. He was implying that for each of these blogs there was no need to keep reading. He had already got the "message" of the blog, the message of the writer, and all the rest of the material was simply further examples of that message. I'm guessing that had Mike found a blog whose writer had not already made up his or her mind that life was positive or negative, but who was still investigating the issue, weighing new evidence each day, as it were, he would have stuck with the blog a lot longer. As readers we don't want to leave the courtroom, so to speak, while the jury is still out.

I get the feeling that there is something very important here, not just for writing but for all of life. The writer--or the person--who has made up his or her mind about life, about experience, has ceased to become interesting, in a sense; he or she is now selling a product. Just as I don't need to watch another commercial to learn that Colgate regards oral hygiene as important, and that the best way to promote it is to use their product, I don't need to hear anything more from someone whose view of life has already been reduced to a few set ideas or slogans. All future experience will simply be further evidence of that. And interestingly, in the case of the "positive" and "negative" truckers, the same experience will serve as evidence of opposite conclusions, depending on who has it.

The interesting writer then, or the writer who continues to be interesting, is the open-minded one, the one for whom the jury is still out.

In terms of a single work, the interesting one is the one whose outcome you can't foresee. You don't know which value is going to triumph in the end. It looks like it could go either way, so you stay tuned to find out.

Have I "branded" myself? Have people figured me out? How many visitors to this blog have moved on, thinking, Oh yeah, I see where this guy's coming from?

Right, Paul: open-minded it is.

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  • I've been stopping in for 6 months, after being stuck one day working on my still current novel. I wanted to find other working writers out there, and just see if I was crazy or what.

    I saw lots of blogs and most were no good but I liked this one and come back every day almost. I think you're safe as far as falling to the ills of the trucker-blogger-syndrome. You remain positive or neutral, and talk about lots of things, sometimes philosophically, sometimes plainly -- regardless, you do a good job of talking about things without driving towards a dogmatic conclusion.

    I enjoy, so keep it coming.

    By Blogger Greg, at May 15, 2007 8:51 AM  

  • Thanks for the note of appreciation, Greg--it's a relief!

    By Blogger paulv, at May 15, 2007 10:03 AM  

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