I’ve been listening to Patrick Rothfuss’ podcast lately. It’s basically just him talking with Max Temkin, one of the people from Cards Against Humanity, and it’s wonderful. They chat about nothing in particular, but the random subjects they touch on usually lead to very insightful discussions and ideas. It reminds me of this blog. Not that my writing is on par with Rothfuss’ eloquence, but more the way it feels casual but touches on ‘the bigger picture’ in interesting ways.
One of the episodes I listened to recently had them touch on how we have become such an ironic culture. We hide behind ironic appreciation of things, and so much of the art we produce has about a dozen different layers, each one snickering more than the other. I think it was Max who said that it had gotten to that point because it’s so much easier to be ironic than to really put yourself out there by just trying something.
This definitely resonated with me. I love writing, but everytime I’ve tried to write something genuine it’s been much more difficult than writing satire, or parody. I’m no fan of The Martian (it’s one of a handful of books I couldn’t finish) but I do appreciate how great it is that some geek without much writing talent (sorry, but it’s true) could write something from a place of such passion it would more than make up for the lack of literary nous. When you read it, you can definitely feel the author’s enthusiasm and pure joy.
That takes guts, and real love for what you’re doing.
This isn’t to say satire or ironic art is bad. Clearly it’s not, but I think it’s obvious that writing from the heart, being completely forthright, and risking looking cheesy can be much more difficult.
Look at love stories. Writing a story where the idea of love falls apart can be done really, really well (watch 500 Days of Summer for a good example of this,) but trying to write a genuine romance, with loopy love letters and sweet dialogue is so DIFFICULT. It’s why there are so many people who adore Pride and Prejudice, or Nicholas Sparks books, to cite two examples of vastly different quality. They can be a little cheesy, some of the writing can be ridiculed, but it is so much more enjoyable.
Again, it’s not that 500 Days of Summer is a worse movie than, I don’t know, Twilight, but instead that Twilight is so much easier to make fun of, and that can take more courage in a way. Sure, a lot of the ridicule is because Twilight is a not a very good example of literature, but also because it’s so completely earnest in being itself.
When people tell me they enjoy reading my blog I usually ask them why. The response tends to be something about honesty. That always puzzled me a bit. There’s plenty of honesty out there, no? Sometimes it feels like there is a little bit too much of it.
Now I get it.
See, when people talked about my honesty they were referring to what I would call earnestness, or vulnerability. It isn’t just that I talk without lying, it’s also that I open up and say things that leave me open for ridicule. There is naked openness in the way I write about my increasing attraction towards men, or the unadulterated joy in my celebratory post about one year out of the closet.
I’ve lost the thread of this post a bit; I’m not completely sure what I’m trying to argue, if anything. I suppose I just want to encourage you to drop the cynicism and irony modern society have told you to hide behind. It is scary to be open and vulnerable and cheesy, but life is so much brighter if you take that risk.