Tag Archives: Writers

Read Books to Unleash your Emotions

Have you ever hated a book that kept you awake all night? Has a book you didn’t enjoy ever brought you to tears? An author’s job is to make you cry, make you laugh, and make you late for work.

Fiction writers deliberately encourage us to see the world through someone else’s point of view, or experience characters’ emotions in a visceral way — and that’s the essence of empathy.”

Consider the statement: “I know how you feel.” While separate, our models of the world have to be similar enough for us to agree on pretty much all factual information. Red is red, after all. Maybe what you and I perceive differs, still we agree it’s red. 

But feelings? Theory of mind is a form of internal mimicry that begets empathy and empathy is all-powerful in culture, art, and, ultimately, morality. The sensory excitations we experience from stories, music, paintings, even architecture and engineering, can resonate in our minds in such a way that we respond with visceral intimacy.

From: ww2.kqed.org/arts/2014/10/09/does-literature-make-you-empathic/

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Writers Must be Independent of Institutions

Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work “rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth”. He refused it, citing both personal and objective reasons [...]

Assuring the press that his decision was not an “impulsive gesture”, one of the reasons Sartre gave for rejecting the prize stemmed from his habit of refusing all official honours.

Sartre believed every individual is responsible for creating a purpose for their life. By accepting the prize, Sartre would inadvertently associate himself with the institution that honoured him.

His humble conception of the writer’s “enterprise” – as he called it in his explanation – led Sartre to believe that those in political, social or literary positions should only “act with the means that are his own – the written word”.

“The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honourable circumstances, as in the present case,” he said.

More: ibtimes.co.uk/nobel-prize-literature-why-jean-paul-sartre-refused-controversial-award-1964-1469202

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Western Writers Cut Off From Society

“Western literature is being impoverished by financial support for writers and by creative writing programmes, according to a series of blistering comments from Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl, speaking shortly before the winner of the Nobel prize for literature is awarded.”

“In an interview with French paper La Croix, Engdahl said that the “professionalisation” of the job of the writer, via grants and financial support, was having a negative effect on literature. “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions,” he told La Croix. “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard – but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.””

From:  theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/07/creative-writing-killing-western-literature-nobel-judge-horace-engdahl

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The Sorrows of a Young[ish] Writer

“From the moment I start a new novel, life’s just one endless torture. The first few chapters may go fairly well and I may feel there’s still chance to prove my worth, but that feeling soon disappears and every day I feel less and less satisfied. I begin to say the book’s no good, far inferior to my earlier ones, until I’ve wrung torture out of every page, every sentence, every word, and the very commas and full stops look excruciatingly ugly. Then, when it’s finished, when it’s finished, what a relief! Not the blissful delight of a man who goes into ectasies over his own production, but the resentful relief of a delivery man dropping a burden that’s nearly broken his back. Then it starts all over again, and it’ll go on starting all over again till it grinds the life out of me, and I shall end my days furious with myself for lacking talent, for not leaving behind a more finished work, a bigger pile of books, and lie on my death-bed filled with awful doubts about the task I’ve done, wondering whether it was as it ought to have been, whether I ought not to have done this or that, expressing with my last dying breath the wish that I might do it all over again!” 

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

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Writers’ Words not Relevant beyond their Books

“in terms of having anything useful or helpful to say about their own works, authors might as well be dead. The only intention of the author that counts is what is contained in the text, as understood by readers who interact with it. Any interpretation the author might care to share about his or her own works is, at best, no more relevant than the interpretation of any other reader. Or, to put it in proper literary jargon, the author’s intent is not privileged above other interpretations.” …

“It is generally agreed that the author’s role is finished when the work is completed and published. After that point, the text must speak for itself ’ or, at the most, those few remaining critics who have not altogether abandoned authorial intent might ask the author to clarify what he or she intended (note the past tense) by including certain elements in the text. The writer’s contribution is frozen at the point of time that he or she finished writing.”

“But it seems that nobody has informed the authors of that. Authors, being people, have responses to their own works and they also have responses to the readers who read their works. Just as readers and critics judge authors by how they write, writers judge readers by how they read, and critics by how they criticize. Authors may change their feelings and beliefs about their own work after seeing how the audience responds to it. Many authors are disposed to defend their work against criticism, answer questions, clarify what they see as misunderstandings, and in general do whatever they think will help to enhance reader enjoyment and guide critical discussion into what they see as fruitful paths.”

From: the-leaky-cauldron.org/features/essays/issue9/authordead/

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Suffering and Literature

“In Molotov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey into Russian History (Faber), which is history-cum-travelogue, Rachel Polonsky, a Cambridge academician, asks whether “there is a set of secret maps to be found among a person’s books, a way through the fortifications of the self” that would explain why a person’s deep love and apparent appreciation of literature (and culture in the larger sense) can be responsible for the execution of so many writers during the purges. Is this because, as the Russian scholar Dmitri Likhachev said, “the Russian people perish from an excess of space” that makes its literature “the most significant, the most tragic, the most philosophical”? These are the underlying questions, often asked about the relationship between suffering and literature, that Polonsky pursues in her book as she travels around the former Soviet empire to revisit the ghosts of great Russian writers of the past.”

From: business-standard.com/india/news/v-vjourney-into-russian-history/418671/

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When the Sword is Mightier than the Pen

“PEN’s survey allowed participants to ofer long-form comments on surveillance; PEN also invited members to share their thoughts and personal experiences via email. In reviewing the responses, themes emerged centering on writers’ self-censorship and fear that their communications would bring harm to themselves, their friends, or sources:

1. PEN writers now assume that their communications are monitored.
2. The assumption that they are under surveillance is harming freedom of expression by prompting writers to self-censor their work in multiple ways, including:
a) reluctance to write or speak about certain subjects;
b) reluctance to pursue research about certain subjects; and
c) reluctance to communicate with sources, or with friends abroad, for fear that they will endanger their counterparts by doing so.”

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Creativity a Byproduct of Mental Disorder?

“intelligence doesn’t have much effect on creativity: most creative people are pretty smart, but they don’t have to be that smart [...] But if high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then what does? [...]

What differences in nature and nurture can explain why some people suffer from mental illness and some do not? And why are so many of the world’s most creative minds among the most afflicted? [...]

As research methodology improved over time, the idea that genius might be hereditary gained support. [...]

For many of my subjects from that first study—all writers associated with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—mental illness and creativity went hand in hand. This link is not surprising. The archetype of the mad genius dates back to at least classical times, when Aristotle noted, “Those who have been eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia. [...]

Among those who ended up losing their battles with mental illness through suicide are Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, John Berryman, Hart Crane, Mark Rothko, Diane Arbus, Anne Sexton, and Arshile Gorky. [...]

The creative [...] and their relatives have a higher rate of mental illness than the controls and their relatives do. [...] 

Why does creativity run in families? What is it that gets transmitted? How much is due to nature and how much to nurture? Are writers especially prone to mood disorders because writing is an inherently lonely and introspective activity? What would I find if I studied a group of scientists instead?”

And the answer is: theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/06/secrets-of-the-creative-brain/372299/

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Literary Fame is a Fleeting Moment

“The team also investigated the changing nature of fame over the past two centuries. By looking at the frequency of famous people’s names in literature, they showed that celebrities born in the mid-20th century tended to be younger and more famous than those of the 19th century, but their fame lasted for a shorter period of time. By 1950, celebrities were achieving fame, on average, when they were 29, compared with 43 for celebrities around 1800. “People are getting more famous than ever before,” wrote the researchers, “but are being forgotten more rapidly than ever.”

“Mark Twain is among the most famous writers and among the most famous people,” said Michel. “Among the American presidents, it’s Theodore Roosevelt.”

“Aiden warned against straightforward comparisons of historical figures, however. “It’s comparing apples and oranges comparing presidents from the mid to late 20th century and those that precede them. The reason is that they haven’t really had the full opportunity to reach the height of their fame trajectory. By virtue of having been around longer, someone in the mid-19th century is going to have accrued a lot of fame.”

“By the mid 20th century, the most famous actors tended to achieve fame at around 30 years of age, while writers had to wait until they were 40. For politicians, fame didn’t tend to happen until they reached 50 or above.”

“Science is a poor route to fame. Physicists and biologists eventually reached a similar level of fame as actors but it took them far longer,” wrote the researchers. “Alas, even at their peak, mathematicians tend not to be appreciated by the public.”

From: theguardian.com/science/2010/dec/16/google-tool-english-cultural-trends

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Writers as Activists

“If [...] creative writers, researchers, playwrights, artists and film-makers care more for how the posterity is going to judge their work and their times, then they should not care for publishers of the Establishments, funding agencies, interviews to corporate media, acceptance by ‘refereed journals’ and the so-called international awards, but should consciously orientate their work for directing the struggle to face its due target and for giving confidence and optimism to the masses”…

From:  tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=37252

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