The Writer and Order.

So, creativity – it means you’re a free spirit, doesn’t it?  It means that life is just there and it just is what it is.  We’re writing to escape the humdrum existence and routine of the nine-to-five shit that just keeps us locked up in a places we’d rather not be.  And society, that’s just there to keep me in place, provide the illusion of stability in an unstable world.  I wan’t to escape all of this, just so that – well, so that I can put everything back in order and create the illusion of stability in an unstable world.

Now, this post relates mainly to fiction writing, but I’ve been thinking this through for a while now and I think that it relates to most other things as well – yes that is most other things in life, in general.  And it relates to the human need and desire to categorise and structure and order everything, including ourselves.

To explain, I’m going to draw on another pastime of mine: photography.  I am one of those people that likes to go out and take pictures of landscapes, and I happen – not by chance, but through sacrifice, determination, and the acceptance of poverty – to have ended up in the lake district; the most photographic of England’s diverse environments.  And this is where it all fits together:  When I photograph a landscape I am essentially trying to fit the scene in front of me into a predetermined shape, i.e that of a photograph. I take a random set of ingredients (tree, rock, water etc), and I organise them into particular shapes so that the human eye appreciates them in a way that it has learned to see and accept as human and artistic.  It is what we do.

Now even the most free-spirited writer is following these rules, but they’re just falling into a different format: in the writer’s case (or is that the writers’ case?), they are turning the essential ingredients of the human condition into a beginning, a middle and an end – a concise, neatly packaged bundle of humanity to digest and study in narrative form (for the most part).  And for something so associated with free thinking, it really is constrained when you begin to think about it.

But that is also why it is so important.  It is the separator that we have from any other living organism; it is what being human is all about.  When you think that we have the ability to conjure up stories about things that we haven’t even seen, or know to be myth, then you know that something far deeper than just living is going on, and it’s the desire for order that drives this.  Even though thousands of real stories are unfolding in front of us in reality, every day, we still feel the need to create others that fit into this cast, this refined form of life with distilled, or entirely fabricated characters that serve to point out, explicitly, everything that we are in the neat structure that we call a novel.

So order is what we want; but it’s order that is arranged with understanding and purpose.  A purpose to explore and dissect who we really are and why we do what we do.

Because surely, if we can order and organise the mad world around us, then we might be able to sneak some order into our own lives and even ourselves.

So, there you go.


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10 Responses to The Writer and Order.

  1. philip orr says:

    but don’t forget the role of art as a disordering process, anarchy, an upsetting of the inner and outer norm-

    a good story, said Kafka, is an axe to the frozen sea within us

    • That is very true, and I think it is with inspection and digestion of the environment around us that we can begin to question and deconstruct the practices – or perhaps illusions might be a better term – of what is so often taken to be the norm.
      I also think that it is our own order we are trying to find which can, undoubtedly, lead to anarchistic stances, and that’s because our own order doesn’t necessarily fit in with the established order.

  2. Steve Freeman says:

    Good creative writing is a balance between order and disorder, between control and loss of control. In the initial composition stage it is good to write fast in order to keep the internal censor/controller/editor at bay. ‘Keep the hand moving’ is good advice. I always compose by hand with a ball point pen or sometimes pencil as this gives a more direct connection between mind, body and words flowing out onto the page than does typing on a keyboard and looking at a screen. By writing fast and keeping the hand moving one can ‘lose control’ in the sense of allowing the magic of creativity to flow from deep within – from the ‘subconscious’, if you like – and without the controlling editor-mind constantly trying to interfere. The words might need tidying up in an editing process later on, although quite often I find that which has been written very quickly – in a ‘trance’ – has a rhythm and fluidity that is often best left alone.

    It was Natalie Goldberg who said ‘Keep the hand moving’, and I would recommend her books ‘Writing Down the Bones’ or ‘Wild Mind’ to any writer who wants to ‘uneducate’ themselves from the conventional rules of writing. Also Kerouac’s ‘Essentials of Spontaneous Prose’ and ‘Belief & Technique for Modern Prose’ has some good points in his ‘List of Essentials’, eg ‘Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better.’

    Sure, a good piece of writing, whether poem, story or novel, has to have some sort of order, some structure. But within that structure it is the elements of wild writing that are often the most interesting and enjoyable – for both reader and writer. Wild writing may become incoherent and need editing at a later stage, but often it has it’s own order, it’s own rhythm and fluidity. Kerouac again: ‘Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind.’ And perhaps there won’t be much editing required. Perhaps, like some of the best rock albums recorded, the performance is recorded live in the studio, with no editing or over-dubs, and the result, although it may contain some imperfections, is fresh, honest, and as it should be.

    • Interesting points made there, Steve. And I agree with what you say, but I also think that whenever a writer sets out they are striving to derive some sort of order from their own lives; that is why they begin to write. It may not even appear as order to others, but it is putting personal experiences into form, however subconscious or loose that may be.

      Cheers for the response.

  3. I enjoy that you used one of my writings as a related article. If that is in fact what you did, or if these two writings just so happened to be enough related that it was an automatic sort of thing. Either way, I enjoy your take on the creative.

    Also, I dig what Mr. Freeman has to say on the fluidity of wild, incoherent ramble. However, you are focusing on one of the greatest at it in Jack Kerouac, everyone has their own style. Yet, I do agree that writing with a pen can be quite liberating.

    Dig it gents, keep the form coming and maybe one day we’ll have some sort of success within the realm of writing to feel good about achieving.


    • Yeah, you’re article came up with a load of others; I ignored most of the rest, but yours was along the same sort of lines and well written, and it had Hunter S Thompson involved so it had to be good!

      I enjoy your writing so I’ll be checking back again.
      Nice one.


      • Thanks Rob, I’ll be checking in on yours as well.You’re spot on when you say that anything involving Hunter S Thompson has to be good, it’s a damn shame he’s gone, but I can’t say I don’t understand his reasoning.

        Take it easy my friend,


      • I hear that. It was just that time for him. Nice one, man.

  4. Jill London says:

    It is a human attribute to seek order but we are capable of dissonance and anarchy too, the two are the yin and yang of our existence, and calm of the one and the kick of the other both makes us crazy and bestows bliss. This is why creativity, imbued as it is with dissonance and harmony, is life, and why we crave it so.
    Thought-provoking post, Rob 🙂

  5. Thanks for the reply, Jill. It seems this post has triggered a lot of debate in what is order and what is anarchy – hard thing to define as one man’s anarchy can be another’s order.
    But you’re right in that it is about balance, and anything involving creativity is often very finely balanced.


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