Author Topic: On Writing  (Read 9991 times)

Paul Phoenix

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1664
  • The 'Kid-Gloves' are off
    • Letterboxd Profile
Re: On Writing
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2016, 01:28:41 AM »
I think the writing itself isn't that different from painting. There's just something off about a piece of writing that didn't come from your heart. Often, in a first draft, the advice is to let all your feelings pour out onto the page, as messily as possible. Only until later drafts do you edit and correct, not before. That way, one could insert an individuality into the conversation. Isn't that's what makes life interesting? To have different and unique individuality clash together in a conversation based on one's own perspective rather than others? I mean, isn't the common agreed notion that the individuality in us is an important ingredient in life rather than everyone agreeing on the same notion that nothing could triumph The Godfather?
"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone." - Lance Clayton (played by Robin Williams), World's Greatest Dad

Eternally seeking variety. 'Tis the spice of life for me.

Junior

  • Bert Macklin, FBI
  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 27807
  • What's the rumpus?
    • Benefits of a Classical Education
Re: On Writing
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2016, 01:52:21 AM »
Not to sound egoistical, but I find that outside influences can be especially poisonous to one's viewpoints. Much of my view about the films one is meant to like is due to my insecurities being influenced and swayed by outside influences, by people who supposedly know better than me and telling me the kind of films that are the best of the best (The Godfather and Akira come to mind).

If anything, I've never sounded more sincere over the past few days specifically because I've flushed that poison outta me and focused more on my own raw feelings.

I'm not calling for you to bow down to outside sources. In fact, I'm only really arguing that we should feel empowered to pull in outside sources to support our own ideas and thoughts about a particular subject. I admit to being frustrated at seeing you change your mind when it comes to your own opinion on a film just because you read other people's thoughts on it. It felt like you were trying to assimilate yourself into the critical consensus rather than building your own point of view. In that way, I definitely agree that these more recent reviews have been better for foregrounding your opinions in them. That's the jam. I'm just saying that if I know somebody else has said something that I want to say (an opinion I have developed independently from them, or in conjunction, but never just taking theirs without carefully considering it) and has said it better than my writing will say it, I'm going to use that because it saves time and effort. With that in mind...

Now, is just providing a link and moving on the best way to do this?

I'm okay with it if the person is willing to vouch for, stand by, justify, and defend every word written as if it were their own. But that's a rather unreasonable thing to expect. And if you make the mistake of assuming it is the case you will very often find that when you go to pin the person down on a particular point, they will slide out from under it. "oh, well I don't agree with that bit" or "hey, it's not my opinion" or "you'd have to ask them". That's what I mean about not being able to have a conversation with a piece of writing, and why I don't support the practice. And what if there's a follow-up question? Who am I speaking to now?

Forums, I find, are an inherently difficult place to make conversations work at the best of times. The uncertainty of eliciting a response to a question posed to nobody in particular fosters a tendency to just go ahead and answer the response you presume you would have gotten in the very same post. :)) I've done that loads of times. Questions posed to nobody in particular rarely come back your way, while questions directed at someone can often be regarded with suspicion, some trap to be avoided, and don't get answered at all (responded to sure, but not answered). Taking the conversation out of the ring and into the crowd, to me, is just another thing that trips up the discussion (or can).

If I use an outside source here (specifying here as opposed to in a school paper or something), it's probably because I agree with it for the most part. As such, if you've got questions, I've got answers. I can back it up, give me that much credit. I'm not going to weasel my way out of something, I'm going to keep it going because these are still just supplemental.

Sure, taking bringing stuff from the outside can mess with the flow. But can it not also enhance it? Might we develop a deeper understanding of both of our positions through the use of outside sources? Is that such a hard thing to envision?

Sometimes other people said it better. I'm acutely aware of when I'm just saying something I know somebody else has said, especially when I'm not doing as good a job as they do at explaining my position or point of view on a subject. I don't have a big enough ego to think that I'm the only person who can think in a certain way, so when I know, for example, that somebody else has explained the way that Spielberg has his fingerprints all over AI, I'm going to just point people in that direction so that they can say it for me.

When faced with incredulity, particularly regarding something subjective like film, I find what fuels it is often the absence of the process. How did you get there? You can cite supporting, like-minded sources till you're blue in the face, but it will all look the same to the incredulous individual who obviously did not have that experience. It's not a matter of how eloquently you describe the experience you had, it's describing how you had that experience that counts. At least for those mystified by your reaction.

Remember math class and having the teacher telling you to "show your work!" :)) It's a bit like that. I know you have the answer, I want to know how you came by it. :)

I'm a little confused here. As much as I liked Hermit's interesting and drawn out process piece about Ex Machina, I don't really think that I do that in my reviews, nor am I entirely compelled to. If you want to ask me about how I reached a conclusion that I reach in a review, you can do that and I'll probably ignore you because I'm busy, but ideally I'd answer it and fill you in. How, then, is the outside source not doing a similar thing. It might take an extra step here or there, but you can always ask clarifying questions and I can always clarify. Bringing in the outside source doesn't cut me out of the conversation, it enhances my point if used correctly, and then I'll jump back in for myself.

Kenneth Burke has a really great way of putting this. He likens intellectual discussion to a cocktail party where you go up to a group and the following happens: "Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress." In this vision, it becomes clear that outside sources are just other people at the party whose opinions are equally valid and, most importantly, also a part of the conversation. You and I could talk back and forth at each other for a long time, I'm sure, but we would, sooner or later, reach a point where we've said all we have to say. The conversation ends. In the conversation with other people involved you can draw on what others have to say for support, or to argue against, or to agree with a difference. I'll repeat the key phrase here, "you put in your oar." Your oar is crucial. You steer, but in waters also touched by many other oars.

And yes, I recognize the irony of bringing in an outside source on this subject.

I think the writing itself isn't that different from painting. There's just something off about a piece of writing that didn't come from your heart. Often, in a first draft, the advice is to let all your feelings pour out onto the page, as messily as possible. Only until later drafts do you edit and correct, not before. That way, one could insert an individuality into the conversation. Isn't that's what makes life interesting? To have different and unique individuality clash together in a conversation based on one's own perspective rather than others? I mean, isn't the common agreed notion that the individuality in us is an important ingredient in life rather than everyone agreeing on the same notion that nothing could triumph The Godfather?

Please do not think that I'm advocating any of this kind of stuff. I'm super for individuality, I don't want to hear you parroting anybody else, but I also don't want you to just think in a vacuum. Firstly, it's disingenuous. Of course you're influenced by outside forces. That's a condition of living in a society. Welcome to it. Every review of The Godfather will reference its legacy or place in the culture in one way or another. Secondly, I only grow half as much if I only listen to myself think. I just read this super spectacular essay about the way that language forces us to categorize everything into groups so that we can function as a society and have the same name for stuff. The article then went on to discuss how the thing in The Thing broke down those barriers (outside and inside, human and not human) through its mercurial nature. It changes form, it oozes and melts and replicates and mutates and that causes a breakdown of the little society they had there in wherever they were. I admit that some of this stuff had been rattling around in my head, but it wasn't until I read this article that I could see exactly how and why it all worked. Might I have worked that out on my own? Yes, in time. But now that I have it, I can (and did) use it to talk about I Am Legend (the book, not the movies) and the way that the model set up in The Thing might work or not work in I Am Legend. Without that article, my understanding of The Thing and I Am Legend would be more shallow than they currently are. Why keep that from you? Why keep it from myself?
Check out my blog of many topics

Im not a quitter, Kimmy! I watched Interstellar all the way to the end!

DarkeningHumour

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 10456
  • When not sure if sarcasm look at username.
    • Pretentiously Yours
Re: On Writing
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2016, 02:03:14 AM »
Now, is just providing a link and moving on the best way to do this?

I'm okay with it if the person is willing to vouch for, stand by, justify, and defend every word written as if it were their own. But that's a rather unreasonable thing to expect. And if you make the mistake of assuming it is the case you will very often find that when you go to pin the person down on a particular point, they will slide out from under it. "oh, well I don't agree with that bit" or "hey, it's not my opinion" or "you'd have to ask them". That's what I mean about not being able to have a conversation with a piece of writing, and why I don't support the practice. And what if there's a follow-up question? Who am I speaking to now?

Forums, I find, are an inherently difficult place to make conversations work at the best of times. The uncertainty of eliciting a response to a question posed to nobody in particular fosters a tendency to just go ahead and answer the response you presume you would have gotten in the very same post. :)) I've done that loads of times. Questions posed to nobody in particular rarely come back your way, while questions directed at someone can often be regarded with suspicion, some trap to be avoided, and don't get answered at all (responded to sure, but not answered). Taking the conversation out of the ring and into the crowd, to me, is just another thing that trips up the discussion (or can).

I agree with almost everything here but not to the point where I would discourage quoting other people. I am sure there are ways to do it that avoid the dangers and fallacies you point out, like quoting only specific passages for example. Sometimes, other writers put things in a way that is inherently superior to what you are able to come up with and refraining from using that material to support your argument ends up impoverishing it.

Sometimes other people said it better. I'm acutely aware of when I'm just saying something I know somebody else has said, especially when I'm not doing as good a job as they do at explaining my position or point of view on a subject. I don't have a big enough ego to think that I'm the only person who can think in a certain way, so when I know, for example, that somebody else has explained the way that Spielberg has his fingerprints all over AI, I'm going to just point people in that direction so that they can say it for me.

When faced with incredulity, particularly regarding something subjective like film, I find what fuels it is often the absence of the process. How did you get there? You can cite supporting, like-minded sources till you're blue in the face, but it will all look the same to the incredulous individual who obviously did not have that experience. It's not a matter of how eloquently you describe the experience you had, it's describing how you had that experience that counts. At least for those mystified by your reaction.

Remember math class and having the teacher telling you to "show your work!" :)) It's a bit like that. I know you have the answer, I want to know how you came by it. :)

But what happens when the process is an emotional reaction ? How do you explain I love this movie ? You can analyse it, its technique, themes, dialogue, etc. ; but in my experience that is not what your ultimate attachement to the film boils down to. I am able to recognize that I probably would not like The Godfather if I had not watched it when and how I did the first time. However, I would be much harder for me to articulate what works in La Dolce Vita for me, and both are in my Top 10.
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

https://pretensiouslyyours.wordpress.com/

DarkeningHumour

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 10456
  • When not sure if sarcasm look at username.
    • Pretentiously Yours
Re: On Writing
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2016, 02:09:45 AM »
Sure, taking bringing stuff from the outside can mess with the flow. But can it not also enhance it? Might we develop a deeper understanding of both of our positions through the use of outside sources? Is that such a hard thing to envision?

Second this. And as a side-note, every time we quote another member of the forum or use the second or This ! memes we are basically doing what smirnoff is objecting to, with the difference that these are not outside sources. It's an important difference because if I refer to a post of chardy's that I relate to, I can actually, or anyone can, talk to him later and he can participate in the discussion. But ultimately, I think the principle is the same and the practice is widely used - or maybe that's just my impression.
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

https://pretensiouslyyours.wordpress.com/

DarkeningHumour

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 10456
  • When not sure if sarcasm look at username.
    • Pretentiously Yours
Re: On Writing
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2016, 02:13:34 AM »
I just read this super spectacular essay about the way that language forces us to categorize everything into groups so that we can function as a society and have the same name for stuff. The article then went on to discuss how the thing in The Thing broke down those barriers (outside and inside, human and not human) through its mercurial nature. It changes form, it oozes and melts and replicates and mutates and that causes a breakdown of the little society they had there in wherever they were.

The essay sounds great.
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

https://pretensiouslyyours.wordpress.com/

Junior

  • Bert Macklin, FBI
  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 27807
  • What's the rumpus?
    • Benefits of a Classical Education
Re: On Writing
« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2016, 02:25:49 AM »
Check out my blog of many topics

Im not a quitter, Kimmy! I watched Interstellar all the way to the end!

DarkeningHumour

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 10456
  • When not sure if sarcasm look at username.
    • Pretentiously Yours
Re: On Writing
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2016, 02:31:23 AM »
Is it readable if I have not watched the movie ?
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

https://pretensiouslyyours.wordpress.com/

Junior

  • Bert Macklin, FBI
  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 27807
  • What's the rumpus?
    • Benefits of a Classical Education
Re: On Writing
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2016, 02:34:15 AM »
It basically spoils it, but you can stop before it gets there. I'd stop at the first full paragraph on 127. But also, see The Thing! It's great!

Oh, also, don't get daunted by the beginning of the essay. It's basically saying that the dominant (then) way of looking at horror films through a psychoanalytic framework doesn't work ask the time especially when a movie is less about an individual than it is about a group.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 02:43:01 AM by Junior »
Check out my blog of many topics

Im not a quitter, Kimmy! I watched Interstellar all the way to the end!

DarkeningHumour

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 10456
  • When not sure if sarcasm look at username.
    • Pretentiously Yours
Re: On Writing
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2016, 02:58:59 AM »
Body horror is not my thing...
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

https://pretensiouslyyours.wordpress.com/

verbALs

  • Godfather
  • ******
  • Posts: 9452
  • Snort Life-DOR
Re: On Writing
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2016, 03:27:41 AM »
I think the writing itself isn't that different from painting. There's just something off about a piece of writing that didn't come from your heart.

My favourite thought argument about art comes from a tv piece I saw about an exhibition at the Tate in St Ives once. The artist stood by his painting and offered explanations to the viewer. I was delighted last night to have this discussion with my partner and daughter (the architect, so her viewpoint on art is very interesting). My understanding of art is that it communicates emotion. A painting is a unique communication tool. What the artist might tell you should have been included in the painting surely? He is admitting a failing in his own work that he has to come back later and explain it. He also patronises his viewer by assuming they can't work it it for themselves. They need to be told.

Essentially all that matters is your own understanding. Not of how you bring your kids up, or work well with colleagues or protect your friends in bad moments. But how you individually parse art. Stare at the painting for hours if it's any good. Draw meaning from it. Just you and your understanding. That open ended process. Not turning to someone else for an explanation. You. You are a unique snowflake. You really are. But you need to challenge yourself that way. Next time you see a film; sitting in the dark with no one to check your understanding and nobody whispering in your ear to tell you what just happened. Then you'll start to be equipped to understand what you are watching. You are using your tools, your ability to process, to listen and watch. You accept that lonely challenge and you must be better at it. You can go back int society when you leave the cinema. Like the song says "in this life your on your own". Well no you aren't. You have family and friends and work and play and you do it socially. A whole nother ballgame.

In this cinema though, you are on your own. Yes there are rhetorical ways of circumventing that argument. Congratulations. There's always another perspective. But then there's the truth. Your truth. If you have read a piece that has influenced your truth that's natural. Just like any film can change your life and your truth. So inculcate that influence from book or film or academic paper and tell it as part of your truth. Again that's the challenge. Verbatim readings or cut pasting whole articles? Like noff said you didn't mean the whole article you meant some piece explained your point in any argument. You surely didn't meant he whole thing. It's like dropping New York on an ant. Discussion is surgical not nuclear. And it isn't your truth and it reads as not your truth. The enthusiasm gets drained out of it. The emotion and the fire. The communication. Like I said art is communication of emotion. Your post can be a piece of art as long as the emotion...your emotion... Is there. Or you can get mr professor to come in and say what you really meant that you couldn't say yourself. And isn't he impressive.

These things are deep within people's mindset. Part of their paradigm. Who they are.  It's not surprising one can't get agreement about important subjects. The disagreement merely indicates the individuality at work.

Now others may start from a different paradigm. That art is communication of emotion. It's something else. An intellectual expression? We are creatures of pure thought perhaps? Are we? We can write that way but are we? Before Sean left this place he was at a point of saying he had no interest in reading how films made the writer feel. I personally responded very poorly to that PoV. It seemed superior. I can see now that as you move forward with writing that talking about good film/bad film seems reductive. "I liked this film, it had good explosions. 7/10". Respect says let whoever wants to write whatever do so. After 6, 7, ,8 years let's talk about progress. Can we progress as writers. Should we expect progress?  You should get better at it. Your knowledge expands and that learning process should feed back into what you write. I'm not talking about new guys I'm talking about people 7 years into this. I can see Sean's frustration now but respect for what people want to do must come first...and I've been terrible on that front myself; enjoying arguements too much. Mea culpa. Aunty Sandy sat me down and gave me a good talking to on the subject of respect.

I'd like to hear in this thread how people feel about progress in writing. About what fundamentally governs what they write about and how.

@tiny. I kept saying it was my personal position and my fault to feel that way. I think I've explained it more fully because this is a better thread to do that. But I understand how my response could be interpreted by you. You used the phrase ego trip. Yes it is an ego trip as individuality must be. The ego trip included reading critics and academics for context. If you look at my reaction to the artist standing next to the painting my family didn't agree. It's a singular view. It's a personal challenge not resorting to contextual pieces outside the work of art. I'm an engineer graduate not a humanities graduate I didn't spend 3 years in the process of reading opinions on art. My respect for it is lower than others. But if I can look at the world and work it out I'd rather do that than have someone explain what I'm seeing. Working without a safety net commits one to the process somewhat.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 04:09:23 AM by verbALs »
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy