Unusual Subroutines


The blog and musings of Christopher Allen-Poole

Ars Scrib… nevermind

This was originally intended as an entry in the creative side of this blog, but since it treats on happiness and fulfillment, as well as other past themes, I thought it would be more useful here.

So… I think that the time has come for me to publicly examine why I write.1 Well, perhaps not the time, but at least a time. I have little doubt that I will pretend at introspection at some date in the distant or not-too-distant future. I make no pretension that I will never have the feeling that I have come upon some momentous discovery about myself and come to feel that somehow I have radically changed who I am and what I believe because of some latest whim or whiff of a thought. I've read too many of my own journal entries from ages past to think that I am ever really in the midst of a revolution.

All of that being acknowledged, here I am… writing.

The short answer to "why" is "happiness". Which, if you know your Aristotle, is the purpose of most everything we do (duh, right?). But more importantly, writing gives me two key ingredients of happiness, it gives me the sense of accomplishing something external while manage to grow something internal. I am clearly better off after writing, I feel better, and it lets me, well, let's start with how it happened before we wax poetic.

I started writing as an afterthought. I had been having difficulty coming up with lyrics for composing. I was looking for words which invoked2 emotions and would still manage to fit well into some sort of settable meter. I'd tried my hand at poetry in the past and… was unconvinced. It wasn't that it was bad, but it also felt stale, perhaps unrefined.3 So… I decided to take some time and study writing.

It wasn't supposed to be for long. I was going to spend a little time establishing the habit and then I was going to go back to writing music. I had thought that I was going to stop after a couple of months, a fiscal quarter at most, but then I realized how much fun I was having. The spinning wind of creativity and invocation, the same barbaric impetus that had fed the musician in me so well, was still there. If anything this was far easier to manage than writing music had ever been, and then I started looking into creative writing, and fiction in particular.

I've started writing scenes, and the scenes have started growing beyond my ability to control, or even predict. Characters that I thought were born from my mind refused to act as I had originally intended. Characters who I had thought were mere one-possibly-two-dimensional puppets suddenly refused to sit still and do what they were told. I specifically encountered one mother (haven't included her in the blog yet, so don't look for her) who I thought was stuck-up and possibly self-involved, and just when I thought she was about to start yelling, she sat down, looked at her daughter, and expressed how much she loved her. I remember reading what I typed about another character and suddenly having the thought, "Oh my gosh, he's lying through his teeth." I had not realized that not only would I find myself dipping into these other realities, but finding that I am merely an observer. Despite my best efforts, I can observe and record stories which seem to grow out of the mythological ether.

I make no pretension of being an expert storyteller. In some ways I consider myself barely literate. I've read or listened to a number of the greats, but I really feel it is a pittance. I listen to lecturers talk about the great writers of the twentieth century and I largely have to take the professors' words on it. I've only very recently started reading Mrs. Dalloway, and I've listened to more classics than I've actually read. I skipped more of the books in High School English than I ever read, and my college did not have particularly stringent language requirements (I went to a music conservatory). I've read quite a bit of Dickinson, but I've barely touched any of the Transcendentalists, even though I know they are worth reading.

I feel like I've discovered two worlds in the last year. The first is the world of the English author. There are hundreds of thousands of pages worth reading that I have never considered. I might imagine being someone from deep in the grasslands discovering the ocean for the first time — a man coming over the last dune before looking out into the vast infinitude of brilliance. This is the world of the writers who I wish I had known, who I wish I had paid attention to, who I would that I had but the briefest moment to read, consider, and digest.

The other world is ever more frightening and profound. The other world is the world of stories and adventures. It is the world of truths and beauties that are hidden behind my eyes. It is the world of tempest and fire, of light and shadow, and the only door it has into this outside world is through my mind and my hands. It is a tornado inside, and I feel as though I haven't the strength, skill, or even the copetence to expel even a tenth of it.

So… here I lie, in so many ways an idiot mute. I hope, I pray that I can give you some piece, some droplet of these worlds beyond me, because they are both beautiful.

And that is the reason I share. I will admit, I would love to earn money from this craft (after all, who wouldn't appreciate having another bill paid), and I would love to find myself growing to be massively popular (pride goeth before the talented, after all), but I would also state, plainly and honestly, that these are beautiful worlds and that I would share them.


  1. Should be noted: the title is a reference to "Ars Scrivendi" (the art of writing), which in tern is a reference to "Ars Poetica" (the art of poetry). This post is an art of none of the above. Instead it is a "why I" instead of a "how to". 

  2. Side thought: better word here might be the medical sense of the word "express". 

  3. The thought has occurred to me, that this was merely the case of a man sitting in the room with legends. When they were young, they sat in the same room, contemplating their own set of idols, similarly believing themselves to be fakes. 

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