Tidbit (Not Exclusively) for Novelists: On Being an Enthusiastic Fool [Or, Some Shameless Pats on the Back…Because Maybe No One Else in Your Life Does That Where Your Writing is Concerned]

To the outside world, writers have long been seen as harebrained, aloof, and probably a bit naïve. I’d rush to say that these are lies, stereotypes, or unfair judgments, but it recently occurred to me that I am, in fact, all of the above on some level – and I’m okay with that.

Writing comprises entire constellations of mindsets and emotions, not just genres and linguistic styles. Writing is a scientific equation without the science. It is psychology without the blatant patient observations. Writing is both distinct from other fields and a curious, polite, occasionally timid imitator of them. It’s impossible to alienate our craft from the rest of the world, and yet some forms of it wouldn’t exist if we weren’t brave enough to distill so many random ingredients into this funny little cocktail of ours.

Research writers – or, at least, those who want to be respected – must always consider not only the technical credibility of a source but sometimes also its appeal to readers (translation: presenting the truth not only to debunk myths but potentially also to defy established practices). Historians may full well offer evidence or theories contradictory to orthodox assumptions, but the way in which they choose to couch those breadcrumbs can make the difference between someone establishing new proof and simply being called an imaginative quack.

Novelists who want to present relatable (or interesting) characters cannot simply scribble out a series of conversations and arguments; this is the path to mediocre or formulaic writing (and possibly also the death of personal enjoyment for the writing journey). Irregular remarks and actions are acceptable, but they must consider extenuating circumstances – and show these details. A predictable character is acceptable, but readers must know why the character is consistent. Frodo didn’t click his heels to get to Mount Doom – he sweated it out, faced starvation and imprisonment, and damn near died. A novelist who can’t show the steps that a character takes isn’t really a novelist.

We can try to plan things out very tidily, but we never really know what is involved until we’re entrenched in a project. The writing process can be fluid, changeable, and fickle, even for those of us who have a proven method to rely on. So why is it a surprise that writing so often mirrors basic human behavior?

Modern definitions of fools tend to imply youth, misdirected intentions, and personal flaws. There are different kinds of foolishness. Some involve pure blundering and bumbling. Some are inseparable from ignorance. Some are shields.

But ours is a weapon. It’s a fuel. It’s a touchstone amid otherwise ambiguous measurements. It’s a mighty torch in darkness. Many of us not only realize that we’re fools for writing but also embrace the fact because we never would have bothered at all if we’d been too self-conscious to start.

So go be a fool today.



(Photo taken from Wikipedia)