French makes everything classier, doesn’t it? It says “This is not a pipe.” It’s a famous painting by René Magritte, a Belgian surrelist painter and it’s sparked some heated debates over the years. Well of COURSE it’s a pipe! It has the bowl and the mouth piece and everything! Really? You think so?
It’s actually a PICTURE of a pipe. You can’t pick it up and stuff it with tobacco or put it in your mouth to puff like the classy person you are. It’s NOT a Pipe. And that was the point of the painting.
Now let’s take this concept and inject it into another avenue of thought. Let’s say, writing cuz HEY that’s kinda what I blog about: Writing about writing. At least for now.
Alright. In the very first blog, I wrote about Fear. Fear of blogging, fear of failing, fear of people, fear of criticism. No artist escapes this. We are our own worst critics and we fear deep down that we’ll tank completely and everyone will hate us. Partly because of this, we become reclusive. Hide from people and they can’t find you with their evil bitter words! YES! Great idea! The other main part as to why we hide in our Man Caves and She Sheds is to let our creative freedom reign, all the while making hyper-critical judgments of our own work and gnashing our teeth over the details. Really, is there anything better than hours of uninterrupted creative freedom? We shun human interaction and often times (at least in my case) house work so I can mire myself in work.
Days pass. Weeks pass. Perhaps even months. We mainline coffee and microwaveable food for sustenance. We’re covered in paint or ink or whatever medium we’ve mired ourselved in. And then the Doors open with a burst of light–well, maybe not a “burst”. Creating stuff is exhausting. So let’s say the Doors creak open and light shines through–well, maybe not “shines” either. Artists work in caves and it’s probably three in the morning when they finally finish their work. Gotta be respectful of those normal humans sleeping like logs in their beds. Okay so the METAPHORICAL Doors open and BOOM there’s art. Simple and beautiful and proudly displaying a piece of the artist’s soul.
So what next?
Duh, it’s on to the next project!! So here we are, somewhat satisfied with a piece of art or a novel we’ve just completed and we’re ready to go on to the next one. You sit down in your chair. Your hands are poised above your instruments of creativity. You might have mood music on and candles lit to stimulate the senses. A can of pop is next to you within easy reach (or a cup of tea or a mug of coffee or a bottle of water…whatever). Annnnnd– for the sake of this article, let’s say you get stuck. You’re sucked dry of inspiration. You’ve got writers block. You look out the window and see the OUTSIDE, a place you hadn’t been in more than an hour two in the last month. You should go out there. Clear your head. But-But–people are BAD. They ask questions and you have to TALK to them! They JUDGE you.
*pat pat* I know. Those judgy buggers. But hang with me for a minute.
Let’s go back to the pipe. Now let’s replace “pipe” with “human”. “This is not a human.” Look at your art. Whatever you have written or painted or drawn…NOTHING about it is real. It is a 2-D representation of the real world. Real humans. Real plants and places that you’ve touched and seen and heard. Art comes from inspiration but it also comes from interaction, especially if you’re a writer. You simply cannot make a realistic novel without interacting with humans. Not a good one anyway.
“I’m sure that I, the great and wonderful author extraordinaire, could do just that! HA HA!!” Yes, I know that some of you reading this are thinking it. I challenge you to. I also challenge you to draw a picture of a dog to a small child who has never seen a real dog before and try to explain how they feel, smell, sound. They won’t get it. Not really. Mhmmm. Alrighty then…
Artists need to recharge their batteries and get fresh material frequently to stay on top of their game. As much as we like to be hermits, and as hard as it is to admit, sometimes our ideas grow crusty and stale. Even the most fiction-y sci-fi fantasy novels with names of villages like Trangflargephison need real dialogue, real humanistic reactions, believable battles, and real emotions. We can’t give the novel that if we don’t practice what we preach. If we don’t, then it’s just words on a page. It’s just a picture of a pipe. Example:
Margaret took a piece of paper and wrote something on it and then threw it at Jimmy, the boy who sat front of her. She liked Jimmy. He opened the paper. He wrote something back and slid it onto her desk. Margaret felt happy when she read it.
It kinda sounds like the first draft of a novel, right? It’s like the author had never experienced emotion before or seen interactions between a boy and girl before. This isn’t even a picture of a pipe, friends. This is like, a sketch of pipe. Done by a toddler. In bright orange crayon. Don’t be this.
Authors, friends, as much as we like peace and solitude, DO NEED OTHER HUMANS. *GASP* *MOAN* *CRINGE* Ughhhh!! Are you saying that we need the very humans who will tear apart our ugly baby stories? What kind of masochist are you Jess!? Yep. Sorry. It came as a shock to me too recently when I had spent an entire month in my house and didn’t have a single conversation with a stranger at all except to nod and say Hi in passing. When I finally did have a whole five-sentence exchange, I was a total neurotic DORK about it. Too loud, too bubbly, too fast while erupting with nervous hysterical laughter at the end. Yes, that was an interaction. An embarrassing one, and one I’ll quite possibly be able to use in a novel someday but the point is, I was out of practice. Where did Cool, Confident Jess go? Was she so far buried in her solitude she forgot how to BE human?
OMG!! I don’t want to be a picture of a pipe! I didn’t want to be seen that way! Or as a nervous, overly-enthusiastic psycho either. I don’t want people to run away from me. I need to practice. Yes. Practice. Practice being human and not just an author.
You can quote me on that, by the way.
“Practice being human and not just an author”–Jessica A. Jordan
Authors need to stay fresh with their creations by going out into the world, even if it’s just observing. We need to write down conversations we hear and take notice of what people are wearing and how they do their hair. Describe them. We need to watch the surfers roll through the waves and smell the flowers when we pass by a field of them. We need to ask questions and find the answers. Practice conversation with the cashier at your favorite Coffee Shop. Stop and listen to the street performers. Have emotions. Put yourself in awkward situations. And while you’re reintroducing yourself with the world, compliment a random stranger and brighten their day. Offer to pay for someone else’s meal, just because. Sit down and listen to that homeless woman’s story for fresh perspective.
These are the observations we’ll be taking back to the Cave with us and putting down on paper. These are the believable aspects that readers will get sucked in by and feel comfortable with. They’ll trust that you understand their humanistic view, even when they’re following the journey of Space Commander Hawlautiquan the 15th of planet Keir in Qualxia, sector 76.
Yes, whatever we write will definitely still just be a picture of a Pipe. They haven’t made 3-D books yet. (Movies don’t count!) But at least whatever you write will be BELIEVABLE. It’ll be rife with human emotion and real dialogue. It’s okay to be a recluse. It’s okay to crave solitude. But as an author, you need other humans to inspire you. As a human, you need other humans to ground you so you don’t turn into a completely neurotic idiot when you have a conversation 😛
Be human, friends. Not a Pipe.