On Writing, the Last of the Relativity of Literature


Writing, for the Sake of Vanity

Yue-An Fu: let’s talk about writing then.  Actually I don’t really like it at all, it’s too boring, a person, just sat down, and write, nonstop, and sometimes, the person would get a traffic jam inside her/his head, couldn’t find the flow of her/his words, it’s kinda boring, so, I’d often stalled, on turning in my scripts, I’m well known for my delays, I’m actually, quite ashamed, I have a New Year’s resolution: to NOT delay turning in my scripts to my publishers this year!

Thinking back, the reason that got me to start writing, was of vanity.  Because I’d read so many volumes of books, and felt, that it wouldn’t be actually, that hard, to write a good article, and I’d even felt, “is that all?  I can write better than you can!” as I read through the works of others, plus, there’s the need from my work, my friends, (especially the ladies), had added wood to the burning blazes, it’s just, cursing and talking badly about others, “Sir, you can totally manage this!”, and I’d started writing, dumbly, without knowing, that I’d gotten, so very much into it, that I’d actually managed, to publish a few volumes.  But, deep down, I’d always felt, that I should be an editor instead, I’d enjoyed editing and reading the books, and, I’d tried, to dodge writing, as often as I possibly could, it’s not like, if I wrote one article less, it would affect this world in great measures.

And, maybe it’s because of this attitude that I took, when I’d thumbed across a good article, I’d felt ecstatic!  Like last month, I’d read two articles by Da-Chun Chang, one old, one new, “A Lesson for Wen-Je Ke” and “The Lessons to Take, from the Warring Era”, after I’d read, I’d thought: wow, you are a very good writer, so, what the HELL are the rest of the author, slacking off on?  And, secondly, I’m self-aware, thank heavens I’m just an editor, not a writer who would be competing with you.

Jien Mao: Just like you, I’d started writing, because I was, enticed.  When I was younger, I couldn’t stand, being placed, on that high pedestal.  “The Kaleidoscope” as edited by Xien Lu, I’d submitted an article, and he’d allowed me to continue writing for the publishing, and so, I’d continued to, then, I’d gotten a letter from an unknown reader, who’d suspected that I was a man, who wrote,  using pastel writing papers, and there were those, who’d asked me out, to play table tennis, or basketball too.  The way we’d flirted at the end of last century is still quite healthy, the female readers would send me photos of their idols, there was, Andy Lau, as well as a female singer too, back then, I’d told them, that I am a woman, and told them, that there’s a difference between my writing and me, as a person.

And I’d started writing as such, started in 2001, I’d started a column, continued writing in the column for over a decade now.  But, I’d never treated myself as an author, because a “columnist” is just like a relationship of a boyfriend and a girlfriend, not accepted into the mainstream societies, that we can’t be brought to the hall of fame.  So, when I’d read works of An-Yi Wang, or Gan-Lu Sun, I’d taken my hat off to them, they are, the real writers.

Yueh-An Fu: bottom line is, in my mind, you’re a great writer, if you can write novels.  When you’re able to, write a long, that someone can finish, then, you’re truly, an author.  Yu-Chen Jing had been editing half of his life, he was always an editor, but the moment his “Flowers in Bloom” came out, who can disagree, that he’s a writer?

Writing a column (or essays on various topics), is quite different, compared to writing novels.  Writing the essays on the various topics is like engaging in conversations, there’s, whatever you want to discuss, based off of whatever knowledge you may have, and, after you’re done, you’d wait for the applauses or the boos, it’s not hard at all!  But, writing a novel is quite different, although made up, you’d still have to build it up from the ground up, you must, set the characters up, the storyline up, there’s too many professional techniques involved, and, it’s all done, on your own, very lonely, very difficult to do.  Taking the opposite view, if you can write a novel, and, you’d switched to essays, it would be, comparably, easy.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at Da-Chun Chang, Yi-Jun Luo, Ping-Ao Jia, Xi-Xi, which one can’t bull shit, they’re all amazing writers!  Even Xun Lu started as a novelist, and later on, he’d written essays (I’d always believed, that Xun Lu’s stopping writing novel, that, was the lucks of the Chinese revolutions, but a downfall for the Chinese literatures).  Without writing a novel (or structuring a story on a grander scale), it’s hard, to call oneself an author (poets are poets, that’s another story, plus, the poets don’t like to call themselves writers.), this, is the prejudices of the subjectivities, that just, never, quite, escape from my mind.

And so, these, are the definitions of what being a “writer” is to these two individuals, however, I believe, that being a writer is not as complicated as stated above, you just need to, find a way, to express yourselves well, so that when people read your stuff, they get what you’re talking about, then, you’re, a great writer, after all, isn’t the whole purpose of writing, conveying your views to others???  But, from a literary perspective, my views are probably, way too raw…

Things are Changing Right Now

Jien Mao: but, on the separations of the genres of novels, articles, and poetry, I have something different to share.  Perhaps, it’s because how long I’d been writing the newspaper columns, that as the magazines and papers came to me to request an article, the first question I had for them had become, “How many characters?”, meaning, that the word count became the schemes to which I wrote to.  This was just like when we were still in the elementary years, when there’s a writing assignment, and we’d asked the teachers, “what sort of essays, descriptive, classification, compare and contrast, etc., etc., etc.?”  Basically, any article with no more than 2,000 characters, I’d written them like paragraphs, but essays with over 5,000 characters, I’d written them like short stories, although, I’m no novelist.

At the same time, because there’s the interaction of the internet websites, from Book.com to weblogs, on the topics of expressing oneself, the most obvious change is in the total number of characters written.  Like how the cars shortened the distances, how e-mails took the place of mailed letters.  The literature today, can only be defined by the traditional novels, essays, and poetry pieces, and, it may be because of how we’re so used to thinking a certain way, that we’d overlooked the newer and more revolutionary concepts.  Naturally, the concepts such as poetry, novels, are still the key to understanding literature.  But the issue of word count, a total unliterary concept, should be looked upon from time to time, when it’s fitting, because I believe, that this, is a reaction, of the study of literature toward the era’s “speed” or “frequency”.  In the realm of the television, the most important productive concept is “the number of volumes in a series”, and, the importance of “word count”, should not be overlooked either.

Yueh-An Fu: I completely agree.  This had become, a serious problem.  Like the practice of martial arts in Chinese said, “one long, one strong; one short, one dangerous.”, there’s a huge difference to writing long pieces of work and shorter prose.  When I’d written on my blogs before, two, three thousand, even up to five thousand Chinese characters are considered the norm.  But after Facebook, weblogs, surfaced, we’d written these essays like articles, usually ended them in a few hundred Chinese characters.  We’d become more focused on expressing emotions, offering the information, as for knowledge, to tell the truth, it is, quite hard to achieve!  Writing on Facebook for awhile, my brain became tied up, and now, if I’m asked to write a five-thousand character article (there’s NO proposal lasting that long?), it’d become, hard.  There’s no right or wrong on the matters.  I believe, that writing the weblogs, the Facebook, a person can get restricted, and, become stagnant.

By the same token, we couldn’t communicate as easily, writing the letters by hand in the piles, after e-mail came out, it would be amazing if you could write a couple hundred words, and, everything that’s talked about is practical, and, after “text messages” came out, we’d taken turns, “speaking,” in order for things to get done speedily, there would be no more than thirty Chinese characters at a time, but conversation is very different than essays, the art of “reading for content”, may well head toward extinction.  The times are changing, we’re restricted by the computers, and, I’m not saying, that short is bad, but, if everybody only wanted what’s short and straightforward, then, the generation will be in trouble.  Computer IS convenient, I’ll give you that, but, is it, helpful to writing?  I couldn’t really say, especially when there’s linked pages, I’d get sidetracked, from one hyperlink to the next, it became, too hard, for me to focus.

So, even though, the development of the internet is for the sake of OUR convenience, it does, pose some problem, as the writer stated here.

Ahhh!  The Tabloids!

Jien Mao: Yeah!  If I’m at home, on half-hour intervals, I’d have to check on my instant messages.  As I arrived at a hotel, before I even sat down, I’d asked for their WIFI passwords.  If the internet is down, then, we can’t live anymore, it’s as if, the world is writing to me constantly, like it’s fallen out of love, and must pour its heart out to me or something.  This, is a problematic way of life, but, I believe, that my writing was shaped, by this mode of living, even, to say it even further, without the computers, I could, no longer write.  As I’d become weary of writing on the computers, I’d logged online, to see the news, like how the writers would, from the last century, to walk onto Nanking Road, or Huai-Hai Road, to see what, is going on there, go into the crowds, to see some new faces, and I, logging online, to see those newly formed phrases they’re using nowadays, to listening in on the tabloids on the discussion boards, sometimes, these activities would seriously affect my writing, caused me, to get sidetracked, and not get back on track for the rest of the day.  But sometimes, it would act as this forceful energy that gave me a boost.  In fact, as a columnist, I’d changed the famous detective, Ms. Marple, to explain my own actions, “someone who’s uninterested in the tabloids is not going to be a good columnist.”

This, is an age where rumors are flowing around like crazy, and I feel, that since we’re facing this trend, might as well get the needed energies from these tabloids then, toward the end, where, is this time leading up to, it all, depends on the attitude to which we take, to approach life.  And I believe, we can only take a positive view to it all, because this, is an age, where new ideas are coming at us like raging floods.

Yueh-An Fu: “The tabloids are the strongest force that moves the human civilizations forward!” back in 1997, when I first was introduced to the Internet, I’d hosted a board of discussions, and saw so many messages, flowing from all over the places like the floods, I’d once joked on the matter, and today, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc., etc., became, the evidence of this fact.  Don’t call it useless, the point is in how you can use it?  The bottom line being exactly the same as we’d discussed the purposes of reading, “the thing that gave your life the most nutrition, that teaches you about the truth of life, are usually those ‘purposeless and useless’ bits and pieces of information.”

So, this, is how reliant we’d all become, of the internet, because we all became, hooked onto it, and, there’s NO way of kicking THIS addiction, after all, we are, only human, and, as humans, we thrive on interactions, even IF the interactions we’re engaged in are unreal, like not face-to-face interactions, like when you’re holding a conversation with someone, looking them in the eyes???


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Filed under Expectations, Life, Perspectives, Properties of Life, Writing

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