Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Split Personality - a person's disorder, an author's order.

Ack, I don't know if any of this makes any sense. Just be warned, there are some obscure ideas floating around in here and there is not nearly as much humour as there should be.
I promise to follow it with an entry on something like giant squid or vampires or something.

Any of you who know me know that I am marginally obsessed with Lewis Carroll. He was an incredible man and a brilliant author. He was also utterly miserable. All his life, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (the man) sought to reconcile his identity as a man of the cloth, the maths text book, and the frown; with the whimsical, analytical lover of theatre, photography and child-like wonder. After many years of trying, he decided that he could not. The two sides to him were so vastly different that he could not marry them and so, he separated them. Many many years before he even considered this other person in him, he wrote on the front of one of his more odious school maths textbooks:
PREFATIO. Hic liber ad Carolum Ludrigum Dodsonum pertinet.
O Lector! cave ne illum capias, nam latro Jovi est odius. Ecce!
(PREFACE. This book belongs to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
O reader! Take care not to steal it, for a thief is odious to Jove. Behold!)*
Years later, he was further vexed by this harsh temptress maths, but this time he was the writer of textbooks on it and a lecturer to young men who struggled to understand him. He needed an escape. It was around this time that Dodgson began to submit his poems, parodies and short stories to the comic The Train: A First-Class Magazine. The editor suggested he adopt a pseudonym and from a few options Lewis Carroll (derived from Lutwidge = Ludovic = Lewis, and Charles = Carolum = Carroll) was selected. I have a tonne more to say on the matter**, but that's not the entire point of this entry.

My point is that,as writers, we sometimes have to separate large parts of who we are from our identities as writers. I, for example, am in constant conflict with these two sides of me: the jocular, silly, Joss Whedon obsessed twenty-two year old; and the deeply analytical, academic cynic. These two sides of me work with the type of fiction that I hope to write but there certain bits of me, like the hopeless romantic bit (doesn't quite work with the cynic bit) and the avid post-structuralist bit (doesn't quite work with, well, anything). With everything I have written to date, I have tried to write from both sides and keep the unwriterly (screw you Oxford, I will neologise all I want) bits in there too. Needless to say, I'm failing at every turn.

Now, the difference between Carroll and I is that it was his career and social standing that dictated who he had to be. I am lucky enough to have the liberty to live from both sides in most areas of my life; all but the most significant - the times when I need to put pen to paper. This distinction is important. What it means is that I can still have both sides of who I am as a writer on the page, but I cannot put them there simultaneously. What I have now proposed for myself is a process of writing in layers. It is going to be particularly difficult for me because I never even plan my work, let alone engage in the heavy drafting processes that will be required of me. But, there are too many of my favourite authors who have had their work published at my age or younger for me to simply sit back and make excuses(/watch another episode of Angel)! Hah! Resolute Sarah is resolute.



Here's what my writing process used to be:


  • Scrawl ideas everywhere 
  • Throw ideas away because I'm too afraid of clutter crap ideas 
  • Sit at laptop and write two pages of completely worthwhile stuff 
  • Delete worthwhile stuff because I'm too afraid of the potential that it is not worthwhile 
Shiny, new writing process:
  •  Make flask of tea and place next to biscuits on desk (not bed, you louse) to drastically curb the distraction factor
  • Have all the day's work done
  • Disconnect interwebs (the separation anxiety subsides eventually, I'm told)
  • Have dictionary next to you to justify lack of interwebs (woman, you do not have to google that word)
  • Have neat, dedicated notebook that is not purely made up of bizarre cephalopod doodles - one that does not take kindly to having pages torn from it.
  • Open and title document. Does not matter what it is titled. Do not get caught up on doc title, you moron. Just make sure that Ctrl-S is easier than Shift-Delete when it comes to closing said document.
  • Do what you do best and write the thang.
    • This should consist of recognising what side of yourself you are currently most inhabiting (god, I'm sounding like a crazy person) and write solely from there.
    • You can always revisit what you have there at a later time and a different head space, the most important thing is that you have something to revisit.
    • Keep coming back to it, but make sure that there is still progress being made on the first layer - we're not looking for a millefeuille here, we're looking for a novel.
     
The editing process will be a whole other ball game, but as I said, as long as I actually have something to edit, it shouldn't be too much of a problem. I hope... I find arbitrary deity to pray to... I sob... I publish post.




Peace, skulls and red velvet cupcakes,
Sa
OR
Ms. Sarah Browne 

*I don't care if my translation isn't perfect. I do what I can.
** The conclusion to an essay I wrote about this
:

     Cleverly disguised as a nonsensical children’s book, Alice in Wonderland reflects a flawed world back at the children viewing both the book and their environment. In having their world defamiliarised, they are able to see it for what it truly is. Even today, this world we read about has some relevance in defamiliarising our own. Carroll’s agenda in accomplishing this was not aggressive or even entirely active, he was merely storing some optimism where it would not be met with aged cynicism. It was too late for Charles Dodgson to invest himself in such optimism but Lewis Carroll, who was essentially ageless as he was merely a product of Dodgson’s repressed inner consciousness, could have fun with the idea of sense and knowledge while still embedding an important message within it. The duality of this person shows the importance of recognising both the serious and the fantastical aspects of life and one’s mind. Neither one is more important than the other; they are both essential. The important thing to note is that the Lewis Carroll’s sense, while it should be present at any age, is most important at a young age. Being oppressed by Dodgson’s brand of sense at such a young age leads to the nonsense Alice witnesses in Wonderland. Without a defamiliarised understanding of the world around you as a child, you are forced to accept the conventions presented to you and this, as we have seen, is highly detrimental to the formation and recognition of the self. That being said, a world comprised purely of Carroll’s sense would be no world at all because there would be no origin to reflect on, no structure to navigate; this is why it is so vital to balance the formal sense with the elaborated sense. It is only by having a point of reference, a still point, that we can develop our minds with agency. Lewis Carroll helps us to discover this balance and to recognise its importance. One without the other would lead to a case of that "decorative" knowledge discussed earlier or a mind that is all imagination and no thought. It is through finding our own Dodgson and our own Carroll within ourselves and encouraging them to work together that we are able to find this balance. This is the success of the relationship between the text Alice in Wonderland and its reader. Every reader has a different sense of self and the book presents you with both Dodgson and Carroll; you relate to one whilst being introduced to the other and they in turn introduce you to yourself. It is only by recognising our selves that we are able to find any meaning in our accumulated knowledge, as Alice discovered. Knowledge is important, but the power to use it and make choices for ourselves is even more so.

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