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Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

Recently, and by recently I mean my entire life, I’ve been having trouble sitting down and writing something that I consider to be truly meaningful. As a sarcastic misanthrope who prides herself on being able to observe the idiosyncrasies, shortcomings and hypocrisies of modern society, or a ‘writer’ in laymen’s terms, I was frustrated and traumatized by the reality that I could produce anything that sounded vapid, uninspired and worthless.  And yet here I am, now convinced that I’m a part of the same social mechanism I’ve spent the better part of my life attempting to mock with subtle wit. I idolize and pertain to understand great writers such as Gaiman, Vonnegut, Orwell, Salinger and Atwood, but sometimes I feel like I’m all show and no tell, like a fraud in my own skin, like I really don’t know anything at all. And maybe I don’t.

So it turns out that my life up till now has been a sham, I can’t write, I can’t produce a simply story. – Daria

Then, while watching an episode of one of my favorite shows Daria that happened to be airing on TV, I came across the root of my problem. It was the final episode of the second season entitled ‘Write Where it Hurts’ in which Daria is given an extra credit assignment that requires her to write a story with moral dimensions. Though an intelligent and witty character, Daria is unable to write something that she claims is ‘up to her standards’. During a conversation with her friend Jane, the existential problem of all writers emerged.

Daria: I can come up with all sorts of ideas, but none of them feels true.
Jane: Well, what’s your definition of true?
Daria: Something that says something.
Jane: What, anything?
Daria: No, something… about something

Jane: Let me get this straight: you're telling me you want to write something, not just anything, that says something about something.
Daria: Right.
Jane: Gee. Who'd ever believe you're having trouble communicating.

This is a spiky pit in which many writers find themselves at one point or another, impaled by their own self-inflated moral agenda. When we say that we want to write something meaningful, what do we even mean? How can we write without knowing what we want to write about, or better yet, without knowing why we even want or need to write it? All we know is that we want to say something… about something, but not just anything. Do we want to write something that will change the way people think or something that will turn society on its head as we pat our own backs in triumph exclaiming, “See! See what I did there! I’m better than the lot of you put together!”

My story sucks. Everything I do has already been done. I wanted to write something meaningful, I can’t write anything at all.

I feel that this is a problem that all writers, myself included, have faced or will face when trying to create meaningful works. We sit down with the idea in our head that whatever ends up on that page will be the greatest comment on modern society that has ever been, when really that just means that we are out to prove how much smarter we are compared to the rest of humanity. More often than not, we end up writing nothing at all, either because our attempts at meaning turn into self-opinionated bullshit or our fear of facing possible mediocre writing has left us frozen at the starting line. I’ve often felt discouraged at my own pending ineptitude.

Later in that same episode, Daria has another heart to heart with her mother, after a failed attempt by Helen to get closer to her daughter earlier that day. Once she actually understood Daria’s dilemma, she came up trumps with some extremely good advice.

Helen: Maybe you’re trying too hard, maybe you don’t have to write something meaningful, just something honest.
The easiest thing in the world for you is being honest about what you observe. What’s hard for you is being honest about your wishes, about the way you think things should be, not about the way they are.

We always tend to be critical and cynical about the world around us, but noticing that there are problems with the world isn’t something to feel smug about; everybody knows that humanity isn’t perfect. What’s hard is refraining from smoothing it over with derisive sarcasm, and genuinely saying what you truly feel about it, what you think will make the world a better place. We mustn’t forget that our desire to create meaningful literature stems from an honest aspiration to live in a better world, not a desire to be the best at pointing out the problems with it.  We point and laugh and criticize others, then, without doing anything at all to change things, we close our books, put down our pens and with a satisfying nod say: “All in a days work.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that satire, sarcasm and cynical wit can’t be good tools to use, nor am I saying that making people aware that there are problems or issues isn’t half the battle. I’m saying that writing for the sake of writing something meaningful is honest but ultimately worthless, writing something for the sake of being honest is what makes it meaningful.

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