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Amber Paulen

The Meaning of Meaning

Everybody knows that the best teacher does not actually teach a thing but allows for the stimulation of personal discovery. Everyone also knows that to learn, knowledge must be wrought out of the self to be subsequently presented back to the self. It seems to me, that fiction now-a-days is astride a current forever drifting further away from this truth. Everyone knows that truth is the universal made evident in the self. What is deemed ‘book-smart’ today was only coming into fashion one hundred years ago. What is ‘book-smart’ today? The ability to list theories, to categorize, to index a piece of literature based on passing trends. This is knowledge buoying on the surface, this is academia, intelligentsia, this is the asinine study of creative writing and of literature.

I consistently find myself agape with disgust when faced with an excerpt from contemporary fiction. The disgust widens when I flip to the author description and find that their qualifications hail from one prestigious university or another. That the author in question holds in their hand a Creative Writing Degree. Of all the ridiculous things that have risen out of modern society I find that this is at the top of the list. The creative-writing-degree is a disease caused by perfection seekers. It is a festering infection that pusses out globules of so-called writers. The reader of this stuff is no doubt as contaminated as the writer, creating a vacuum where the ‘real’ work must struggle to survive. The creative-writing writer is always thinking of the reader, even writing for the reader, an audience, for that is how these seals have been trained. The red ball bounces on the noses of these fools, boing! fiction for the professor, boing! a categorized story or a dissected diatribe, boing! just another story written to please. The university is now in custody of the bouncing red ball and the seal passes to graduation. A seal can never write literature. A good and properly trained seal writes stories for the gratification of others. A submissive seal always on the surface of the self. It goes without saying, that not much comes of seals and bouncing red balls at the end of the show.

Good writing has nothing to do with the actual product. I can say this without batting an eye. What one writes is besides the point. One could write a forty page treatise on dung beetles and it could be just as meaningful as the one thousand page magnum opus. Good writing has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Most good writers surprise themselves at the end of a session with what they have written, both in quality and in magnitude. I can also say that good writing has nothing to do with writing. Good writing has the most to do with living. This is the main reason why the clinical fiction writing of today can never survive. The pages decompose instantly when met with the ephemeral air. University can act only as a supplement to life, it may never take its place. University is a shelter constructed of titles and names. It overshadows your own inherent ability and the adventure of disengagement. It kills the natural draw to question and the trust that eventually you will be led to the answers. University has nothing to do with life.

Good writers are those who are the most in life. Most good writers never write a thing and are known through their example and the influence of their action. Good writers have nothing to prove for it has all been hashed and rehashed inside the giant well of the self, the actions which result are proof enough. That said, there are hardly any good writers, of the past or of the present. But where then hath all these books sprung from? Like the carefully spoken messiahs who have no need to lift pen to paper, good writers make their true influence through their lives made evident in their work. Or is it that the two go together in an inexorable back and forth of fecundation? The writer who feeds on good life will most likely create good work. First comes the living, always.

Writers do not live one life, they live two. There is the living and then there is the writing. There is the second tasting, the delayed reaction. —Anais Nin.

From the conception of the germ, ‘To Write,’ to the actual settling of words to paper is an adventure that engenders the strength of the hypothetical text. Within this journey are jewels, picked up and protected, tossed overboard and forgotten, cherished and remembered. These jewels are the crystallizing formations of the self, the self stepping forward, daring to think the thoughts that have been previously forbidden. One embarks on those words ‘to write’ with the writing as the only objective in mind, though somewhere along the way one learns that the germ does not magically sprout typing fingers and the writing, the objective, is inevitably lost. Instead there is only the river and at the end of the river, the source. To arrive at the source is not all daises and pansies, but once one has arrived and those cool waters run in ebullience over the toes, it is divinely known that there is no going back. Things will never be as they once were, from this point on, only forward and upward and onward! The source is supinely endowed with typing fingers. The thought of writing no longer sets my blood to boil, but is a natural release, like the stretching of my soul.

Good writing comes from good reading. What one reads is the judge of ones’ own work. What one reads is determined through a process which extends over lifetimes. Not merely the singular lifetime of the writer, but of the writer’s forefathers and their exponential forefathers. Extending retrogressively, splaying in circumvolution it is a lineage that is implanted into text and visible in technique. One reads enough of one author, is influenced by this author and is given the author’s influences. It is a long, long chain whose links may surface sporadically or jut out in any direction or be of one smooth flow, but all becomes part of the long linking chain that the reader is constantly creating. It is like the joyful leaping from one lily pad to another, hovering for a moments time, then setting out again in a new and equally desirable direction.

With all this being said, how could I possibly respect a literary degree? The meaning can only be discovered within, anything else is societal flotsam and jetsam, the bacteria on the surface of the cesspool. Look at the clowns all lined up for the show, book signings and the cartoon car of publishing houses. Stoic professors who propound the grave necessity of the correct usage of theory and blah, blah, blah! These people might already be dead for all the life they show. Is that their pulse so faintly beating? Body bag them and ship them out! Reality is all around us, no matter what; it will always evade categories and the narrow funnel of academic thought. One knows the closeness with reality just by checking the pallor of the skin, the glint in the eyes, the skip to the step. Let all the fools and seals enact their coriagraphed dance, write one for the team! I’m not backing down.

Bracciano, Italy
August 2007


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