I don’t know if I should get angry, or just laugh, when I see Artists Societies or Associations either purposely, or ignorantly, ignore those of us who use the written word from their “mission statements.” According to these groups — Painters, Photographers, Musicians, Dancers and Actors all are artists. We, the lowly authors, bards, writers, storytellers and raconteurs are left on the outside —Inclusion cruelly denied.
Does this hurt, cause pain?
Of course it does, it is beyond an insult!
After all, like all who create, we are sensitive by nature.
Below are three separate posts which have previously appeared on my blog. Each deals with the writer as artist. I would like to know your opinion. Please take the time to comment. Should we take this deliberate slight in stride, or endeavor to be recognized for the creative artists we are?
I have had people express condemnation and condescension and consternation at the dark themes of my writings about damaged people, myself included. And how me, and my characters, do not respond in ways in which those who look down from ivory towers deem appropriate.
Painting pictures with written words is my form of creative, artistic expression. It is how I reflect the world as I see it, at this moment. I pour my heart and soul into my stories, no matter the length. In the expression of my art — Should I write of a rose-colored world I do not see?
I am angered by such dismissive and derisive comments, but when delivered by other artists, I am saddened. How would another artist feel if I found fault in their art solely because their artistic expression did not reflect MY world view? I have written that sensitivity is the curse of creativity. I am often stunned at the lack of sensitivity in some creative people.
When painters cover canvas in dark expressions of pain, anger and sorrow — they are hailed for their depth.
When a photographer captures the horrors of war, homelessness and suffering — they are praised for their courage.
But, when a writer breathes life into stories dealing with suicide, despair, promiscuity, murder, bullying, sorrow, sadness, hopelessness, and loss — they are labeled as suffering from depression. They are mollified with pleasant platitudes to alleviate their perceived overly sensitive souls. Or worse, callous vulgarities are shouted, trying to intimidate and halt the writing of such deep, thoughtful content.
We are condemned, admonished and told:
•To not express the art which burns deep down within our very being.
•To toughen up, as if sharing depth of emotion is not an expression of toughness.
•To stop feeling, as if we should disconnect from that which inspires us to create.
It amazes me how little people see the writer, author or storyteller as an artist.
Ernest Hemingway didn’t simply write of war and adventure. He often made scathing social commentary, and almost always, at the heart of his stories, he emoted passion, love and loss.
Stephen King didn’t simply write macabre tales of the supernatural. King’s early works told tales of disaffected, bullied, ostracized outsiders — actually so do his current works.
Instead of scanning a story to get to the end, READ the words.
Most of us are beaten down hard by the world.
Many of us are damaged by those beatings.
Not all of us are impacted the same way.
Not all of us respond the same way.
I don’t simply ask you to buy my works for self-gratification.
I beg you to buy them, and read them. To take in each and every word. I write not of emotions, but I write emotions. Some stories, I write in first person narrative so the reader may experience the dilemma, and the pain, and the suffering, and to understand the damage inflicted upon those who have no voice.
I implore you to purchase a copy of any of my stories, both those under my name and my pen name; you would be surprised by the subtextual metaphors of the tales under my pseudonym; read, discover and learn of those damaged, and some who are broken by the world we all share.
And maybe, just maybe, we will gain insight and compassion for those suffering in ways we are not.
As I stated, I am, at my core, a storyteller. I am not an essayist, or a technical writer, or an English professor, nor do I have any desire to be one. On my Amazon Author Page, and other places, I state this quite clearly.
I have one goal when I write. That goal is to tell a good story. Nothing more, and most certainly, nothing less. I use the written word to tell stories, because in expressing my art, it is this form with which I am most comfortable. As I am evolving, I strive to become better at my craft. When I write, whether it is in powerful, solid, short sentences, or overly descriptive and excessively grandiose prose — all keystrokes, every choice of font, use of commas, perspectives, character names, and on and on, are chosen with the most deliberate of intent.
When crafting a story in written form, there are several tools available. Tools that allow us to do more than simply tell a tale. There are elements at our disposal to aid us in putting our readers directly into the story. Yet, because of outdated publishing standards, and fear of reviewers citing certain elements of style, we as artists, are bullied into submissive conformity.
I say enough!
Let’s look at some of the tools we may utilize to better express our art and own our Author’s Voice.
How about we begin with font? Thanks to Steve Jobs sitting in on a calligraphy class, our word-processing applications come loaded with a smorgasbord of fonts. These are available at the touch of a finger and enable us additional means to express ourselves. I must ask — Why the fuck are we still using bland, boring and banal Courier and Times New Roman? I get that when typesetting was a chore, and typewriters had hammers with fixed fonts, there was little to no choice. But in case the publishing industry hasn’t looked at a calendar, this is 2019, not 1919. We have many wondrous and elegant choices to put word to paper. Why are we so reluctant to use them?
In War Springs Eternal, and Is Suicide Painless, I decided to stop being a brain-dead, mindless automaton and utilize a different font. Not simply to be different, but to aid in telling the stories. I chose Ink Free, because I wanted the stories to appear as they were being handwritten, told directly by the person.
Which leads to my next tool in crafting a story, first person narrative. When I choose to use first person narrative, I am not using it to tell the story from a character’s perspective, I am using it, so the reader gets to read it from their own perspective. In these cases, I don’t want the reader to be told a story, or simply be part of the story — I strive to make the story, the reader’s story.
Which again leads to my next tool, not giving the main character a name. In most of my stories told from first person perspective, I don’t give the main character a name. This is a point I am often asked about. When I tell them the answer, they usually respond, “Yes, now that you say it, that’s how it felt.”
What is my reason? To make the reader — the character.
I omit naming the central character, so the readers feel as if, perhaps perceptible at a level just below consciousness, they are the ones telling the story.
Next, are some of the more — what are deemed by those who clench their asses so tightly, that the insertion of a charcoal briquette up their lower colon, would result in the expulsion of a nice sized diamond — offensive transgressions. These pesky persnickety worshipers of The Elements of Style have heart-attack causing anxiety when we use the following to tell a story.
The overuse of commas. Why, at times, is it a good idea, to overuse, the comma? Not because we are mimicking Bill Shatner’s James T. Kirk, but because in the age of multitasking induced shortened attention spans, we want the reader to slow down and take in a certain part of the story. It is not only simple, it is effective.
The overuse of commas opposite, the run-on sentence. How dare I? When run-on sentences are noted, the grammarian gatekeepers cry for summary execution. Often by the barbaric and cruel guillotine no less.
Again, how dare I?
I dare because when I defy this standard I want the reader to quicken his or her pace. The character for whatever reason is rushing so I want the reader to rush. Re-read this paragraph without inserting your own pauses. Get it?
Then we have the run-on’s opposite, the dreaded sentence fragment. Aren’t sentence fragments just lazy and sloppy writing? You may ask. Well, to the red pencil yielding hordes, it most definitely is. But in the hands of a skilled raconteur, it is a powerful tool.
How and why? If I am using sentence fragments, it is because at that point in the story, the character is fragmented. Through using the narrative, I want to convey that to the reader. In other words, I don’t want to tell. I don’t even strive to show. I desire the reader to experience exactly what is being felt.
And now, the mortal sin of all mortal sins. One of which, last rites will not absolve, and for which no penance in purgatory will be served. This mortal sin will have us passing from this life directly to flames and fire of hell. This is the big one. Instead of listing items with only commas, I have a tendency to use, and overuse “and!” I will now insert a picture collage, so you may pause and absorb this most heinous infraction of proper English writing.
Why commit such an atrocious act of blasphemy? The answer is so simple. It is because I want the reader to place emphasis upon each and every word, and idea, and point, and emotion I am conveying.
“Joe, how dare you even mention these efforts to be an individualistic. We are writers, not artists, thus we are bound to the laws of composition and elements of style. Colleges and textbook publishers have made millions of dollars to snap us into a rigid and unforgiving way to write.”
Let’s face it, the grammarians and English PhD’s, who spend much of their time drowning in the pools of academia, will never quite get why an artist would break their holy and coveted rules. Instead of showing any intellectual curiosity, they will instead voraciously vilify our labors to make writing our art. In their efforts to bully us into submission, they will take to the pages of social media or the simultaneously much-coveted and much feared Amazon review — attempting to force us to bend to their will.
I say, “FUCK THEM!” Let them waste away in their ivory covered towers — never descending to mingle with us, the artists of the written word.
Because storytelling is our art, what they will never understand, what they can never understand — is we seek to do much more than write, we seek to create.
“… the alteration of a word can throw an entire story out of key.” Ernest Hemingway
I have had people criticize my work for breaking conventional rules of writing and grammar. Sometimes, these notes are accurate, and I make corrections. More often, they are given by those who believe themselves superior to the storyteller. These over analytical people are more concerned with picking out the placement of a comma, or a semicolon, than actually understanding and enjoying the story. These stifled-visioned, short-sighted, self-appointed, exalted grammarian gatekeepers would waste a day at the beach examining a droplet of water, while missing out on the magnificent majesty that is the ocean.
On my Amazon author page, I state clearly —
“I’m a storyteller, one who uses the written word to tell tales. I am not a professional essayist nor English professor. My grammar is not always perfect, and my sentence structure not always correct. To me, what is most important, all that is important, is the story.”
I have been contacted by those who would like to edit my work and maintain “My Author’s Voice.” What gives rise to curiosity is — How do you know my voice if you haven’t read my works? If you haven’t gotten to know me? If you don’t know or understand the story I am trying to tell?
Imagine if these anal-retentive, punctuating perfectionist, had counterparts in the art world who exercised their influence over the works of someone like the late great neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat. If you don’t know Basquiat’s work, be open, because to the closed minded, tight-assed, creativity- stomping critic, the genius of his work is completely lost.
If Basquiat had an over-bearing, English professor type bully hovering over his shoulder, what would he have become? Instead of groundbreaking art, what would he have been pigeonholed into creating? If he would have created anything at all!
When I over use commas, it is because I want the reader to slow down and take in a certain part of the story. When I use run on sentences, it is because I want the reader to quicken his or her pace. When, instead of listing things with commas, I use and over use “and” it is because I want the reader to place emphasis upon each idea I am conveying. When I use sentence fragments, it is because at that point in the story, the character is fragmented, and I want to convey that to the reader using the narrative. Instead of telling or showing, I want the reader to experience the story.
For some reason, in the literary world, there are those who not only seek to curtail creative and unique approaches to storytelling, but would flat out deny the author these freedoms. We should take a lesson from Papa, who only allowed editing for spelling, and occasionally for grammar, and insist upon exercising our individuality. Perhaps, no there is no perhaps — use, and never, ever surrender your author’s voice!!!!