This fear found its seed when my English class in my senior year of high school was assigned Joseph Conrad’s classic, “Heart of Darkness” As I watched reactions to Joseph Conrad's work that we read and discussed in English class, I noticed that his very dense and wordy style turned off at least ninety percent of the class. At first, I wasn’t impressed with the writing myself. A particularly brilliant classmate of mine made the remark that he seems to write as if he believes he is more clever than he actually was.
Conrad is obviously very proud of his command over the English language. Indeed, it’s a fine gift, and one I would like to say I share. His stories may seem a little dull with far too much detail to bog the narrative down. Conrad also has a certain propensity to write so densely as to imply multiple meanings through his words can leave readers incredibly lost. But there’s absolutely brilliance to his work, as well. He brings up some profound ideas – things that make you think. They may be pretty obvious concepts for a smart mind, but a lot of people don’t think of such things.
I could go into particular issues, but presently I’m more interested in discussing something else. In discussion, I find that many will read the most absurd notions into things. Conrad’s dense style in all of its numerous interpretative parallels (there’s a phrase!) only lends itself to sending folks off into forming some silly hypotheses. For example, let’s use an often commonly misperceived situation: two men being together in the same bedchamber…
Why do folks, even scholars and professional critics, resort to saying they had a homosexual relationship? My classmate whom I mentioned earlier summed it up bluntly with her simple words: “So he’s gay? Who cares?” I mean, come on. Fortunately, our teacher agreed with her notion, putting an end to the absurd direction our class discussion was taking.
Oh, how writing style can befuddle or please! It would all seem to be the audience. Willingness can be a factor too, however. There are some great concepts to be thought about presented in what seem to be dry, dull books (perhaps on the surface only!) The writer writes to tell the world something and unfortunately can be received the wrong way and sometimes sadly enough, not at all!
And, that became my fear. What if I write something I think is brilliant and everyone else thinks it’s crap? Apparently, I’m far from alone in that fear.
Like Joseph Conrad, I believe even I myself can get to the point of overstating things. I’m definitely one to overanalyze, trying to provide a reason for everything that happens, each particular thing that exists with a broad definition. More specifically, it would seem I purposely flaunt my grasp on the English language. But, I can assure you it is the only way I know how to fully relate to you what goes through my head!
While Conrad’s style can be bewildering and long-winded to me, it may have been the only way in which he was able to fully explain himself. I’ll say much of it is seemingly entirely extraneous, though. But ,one’s creative work is so often full of such extraneous detail. It’s just a fact. A creative mind will sometimes try to explore several avenues of thought at once, hoping they will intersect later on. Sometimes, becoming lost is just a sad eventuality in many cases.
What I’ve learned over the years, though, is for me, at least, writing is an exercise in self-discovery. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t write with others in mind, but the initial act of writing should be considered an act of Self-Discovery.
But when it comes to writing about my own life, though, I’d find it difficult to get much out of my own personal experience. Recording my daily happenings into written form is something that often leaves me bored. What significance can such trite occurrences hold for the future? Why waste time focusing on such trivia? Shouldn’t I continue to explore what my mind continues to analyze? It would seem a waste only to record events in their simplest forms. There are so many more interesting avenues of thought to explore...
Though I have had my stories, the “good ones” are so few and far between. There seems so little to gain from many of them. It seems writing about them would be unproductive. But as I’ve learned in recent years, self-reflection is actually a key part of becoming a better writer. You have to know yourself pretty damn well in order to write well. You have to draw on your own personal experiences, even when you’re writing fiction, in order to give the writing permanence. Otherwise, nothing seems to stick.
Self-Discovery is a long, arduous process. Little bits of insight come to us piecemeal after a long time. You may encounter an experience that affects you in a significant way, yet it is so difficult to explain. Sometimes you find yourself having to relate every detail of that journey you took. Not just within yourself, but over the water and land, and otherwise. Sometimes it takes a detailed reflection of your past to relate what’s that affected you in significant - or even profound - ways that makes you one step closer to fully understanding the workings of your soul. For me, that’s something Conrad did very well in “Heart of Darkness” and I think it’s a work that should continue to be appreciated forever.