Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sad Dollars

In philosophy class, as we struggled to stay awake and keep our drooping heads from wilting to our desks like winter flowers, my... eccentric teacher (let's call him Russ*) paced around the room explaining monism. I can't tell you what monism is, because all I wrote in my notes was "monism: livin' in a material world, and I AM A MATERIAL GIRL do do dododo do do".

The face of monism.

But despite my apparent delirium during that lesson I can still remember a question posed rhetorically in tones that belied a further point in mind (which, I confess, I probably tuned out): "If I were to offer you a pill that would basically turn you into a robot, sapping you of all emotions good and bad, would you take it?"
Now, I'm not going to debate the merit of this question because the obvious answer is no. But I am willing to bet that each one of us has different reasons for denying that opportunity.

I'm sure most of you are thinking of some pansy reasons like love or family or 'positive emotions are worth the negative emotions' or some other bullshit.  That's bullshit. I already said that.

Well, it's not bullshit. Those are valid reasons and I agree with them. But as I briefly ran the question through my mind before falling back asleep on the comfortable metal top of my desk, I realized that there was a secondary motivation lurking beneath the obvious. I found myself wondering what having no emotions would do to my writing, and felt appalled when I realized it would basically erase my ability to write creative prose.

Writers deal in emotional currency, dollars of ecstasy and sorrow and the tiny coins of loss, jealousy, subplots. Without emotions I would have to way to play with the emotions of my readers. In my opinion, being an empathetic person is the best path towards writing successfully; to understand the emotional pain and joy of others is to be able to recreate it and use it for the advancement of your theme, to be able to create characters that feel and bleed and evoke emotions in their readers as well.

There is a place in writing for technical skill, for an immense vocabulary and grammatical constructs and knowing when to use "as if" instead of "like" ("as if" if the next clause contains a verb). But there is also a place in writing for using the death of your character's mother to tug at the heartstrings of your reader for the purpose of advancing an agenda or an end (I firmly believe a novel without a theme is just fanfiction full of OC characters- and that's the worst kind of fanfiction).

So, friends, I would never give up my emotions. Partly because I love you (yes you), but partly because giving up my emotions would force me to give up on writing, and, if there's anything I've learned from this crazy month, it's that I can't give up on that.

Introspectively yours,


*Russ is his name.

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