Day 43: Ray Bradbury

The intellect is a great danger to creativity…because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway. …The worst thing you do when you think is lie—you can make up reasons that are not true for the things that you did, and what you’re trying to do as a creative person is surprise yourself—find out who you really are, and try not to lie, try to tell the truth all the time. And the only way to do this is by being very active and very emotional, and get it out of yourself—making things that you hate and things that you love, you write about these then, intensely.

— Ray Bradbury

Not lying to yourself, not dodging the truth you know down deep, mining what you hate and bringing it to light—one difference between work that matters and work that goes away.

Day 22: Jane Smiley

Bouncing off yesterday's post about Orwell, this from Jane Smiley:

Every piece of writing puts forth some logical argument and some theory of cause and effect for the simple reason that words, especially prose words, are sequential. The author and the reader both know that if the author doesn’t provide the logic, the reader will. But the logic of events and people as they exist in the world isn’t self-evident, and narrators of fiction and narrators of nonfiction have different ways of putting together their logical systems.

The promise of nonfiction is that it is accurate, and therefore, like an archeological site, incomplete—here are the stone walls, here is part of a mosaic, here are two goblets. My theory concerns what these objects might mean, how they might be connected to an earthquake for which there is evidence, but I cannot go too far toward completeness or the reader, who might otherwise enjoy my narrative, will cease to be willing to suspend disbelief in its accuracy.

But the history of literature shows that listeners and readers want to know not only what happened, but also how it looked, sounded, smelled, felt, and also what it meant then and what it means now. They want to know but also to experience, and therefore they seek completeness, and so they willingly suspend disbelief in fiction (The Odyssey, the Book of Genesis, Waverley, Flashman).

I am much taken with Smiley's idea that nonfiction, that is, nonfiction rigorous in its adherence to only what can be documented, measured, accurately recorded, is inherently incomplete and we turn to fiction for theories of the missing parts.