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    From: (Jms at B5)
 Subject: ATTN JMS: What is behind your writing?
    Date: 9/1/2000 2:43:00 PM  

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>Do you write to teach or to explore?

Both. Sometimes you don't really know what you may think of something until
you have to verbalize *explain* what you feel about somethilng. I've
taught writing on several occasions, and each time I end up learning as much as
the students because of the necessity of verbalizing what is often a
subconscious, even a subliminal process.

I'm very careful not to teach per se in my writing, because on a wider scale,
I'm not sure what I have to say that would be of any use, validity or purpose
to anyone else. I believe in what Mark Twain said: "If you want your stories
to last forever -- and by forever I mean a hundred years -- you must neither
overtly teach nor overtly preach. But you must covertly teach and covertly

> I believe that some things you
>have said are provocative statements, such as "There are many things
>worth dying for. Do you have anything worth _living_ for?" Clearly
>that is an example of teaching, but some issues are more complex than
>that. When Delenn questioned breaking the Grey council since it had led
>to civil war, when Londo's heart gave out and he worked through his need
>to ask forgiveness, when Delenn dealt with her own guilt at starting the
>Earth-Minbari war you are covering difficult territory and themes. The
>characters are working through extremely complex issues.

I again quote, this time from William Faulkner: "The only thing worth dealing
with as a writer, the only thing worth the blood and the pain and the effort,
is the human heart in conflict with itself."

For me, the complex issues ARE the only really valid issues, and the ones most
worth writing about. On a day to day basis, how often do we have to deal with
rewiring a bomb so it won't go off and kill a busload of kids, as happens every
other night on TeeVee?

But every day, sometimes every hour of our life, we have to wrestle with the
profound issues: who do we trust, who can we tell our secrets to, what do we
regret, what do we want, how do we love and how do we forgive and do we survive
doing either one of those?

Those aren't great philosophical issues fit for academic dissection...those are
bread and butter considerations that affect us every day.

> For yourself,
>have you satisfied yourself with the answers you have arrived at, or are
>you still exploring possibilities through your writing?

I'm not satisfied, and I hope I never become satisfied, because that leads to
complacency. I'm constantly questioning myself, my assumptions, what I wrote
yesterday and what I hope to write tomorrow. I know there are some damn good
answers out there, but until I find the questions that match the answers, I've
got nothing.

>And, more to the point, when you are writing, are you exploring at the
>same time, or are you writing about your conclusions?

I think that, more than anything, I'm trying to write about the things that
interest me, the things that bug me, the things that don't make sense to me. I
don't *have* many conclusions to write about, and am deeply suspicious of the
few that I do have.

At its heartmeat core, writing is about exploring the questions of your heart
on the assumption that what intrigues you, what inflames or amuses or ennobles
you, will have the same effect on someone else. It's about taking chances, and
taking risks, and pushing yourself to be honest in the issues that present

I saw an interview recently with the (relatively) new commandant of the Marine
Corps, who said, of the Corps' experiments with organization, techniques and so
on, "Experimentation -- TRUE experimentation -- means that you push yourself
*until you fail*." Failure is not only a possibility, it's a requirement, so
that you learn where your limits are, so you can address them and try again and
next time push yourself beyond the point where you failed the last time.

That, to me, is about a good a description of the job of the writer as I've
ever heard.


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