“Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other” -William Faulkner
I do not want my life to be consumed by facts.
We are constantly told about the importance of balance in our lives; a balanced diet, work and play, talking and listening, thinking and doing. Balance is a law of nature it would seem. One type of balance which I have neglected is that between fiction and non-fiction. I find it so easy to lose myself in non-fiction. There is so much to know, to understand, to remember, to think about, that I don’t have time for non-utilitarian reading. What’s the point? And yet there is a massive point staring at me from the pages of novels and poems, or the scenes of plays and movies, and even in still images. Yes, pictures are what alerted me to this need for fiction. When I look at some images, I instantly like them, but often cannot put my finger on exactly why I do. Perhaps it is the way the photographer has caught the mood or the expression in a portrait, or even the simplicity of design. These type of pictures are all fuel which feeds a creative fire in me. The more you see the creativity of others, the more you are driven to be creative yourself. Or perhaps it is simply that I give myself more license to be myself when I see how wonderful it is when others are being themselves. The cultural-consensus of our time is so drab and boring. While there are streaks of colourful individuality, and people who refuse to exist within the lines of society, there are far more drones than there are Jedi! But back to fiction. There is something about fiction which engages our minds and emotions in a way that is not possible if we limited our content to fact. Biographies and history are great, but they are constrained in that they have to be true. And that really is a big constraint! With a blank page, a blank world or a blank person you can do anything. You don’t even have to be realistic. It can be completely fantastical. There’s something about reading a story you know is not true. One would think that this would diminish the experience, but somehow it doesn’t. It’s weird I know.
I have recently had the wonderful experience of liking an abstract photo, but not knowing what I like about it (which is the wonderful part). The reason why it was a wonderful experience is that it was ME that found it cool. It wasn’t because it had good composition, or was by a famous artist. I just liked the way it looked. You might have hated it, and that would be equally wonderful (for me anyways) because it means that I am tapping into my own individualness. Judging something on the criteria that have been given to you (like composition or author (at least implicitly) feels very second-hand. You’ve been told what’s good and what’s bad, what’s interesting and what’s not. When you judge it on those scales, it often just feels like you are a part of the system and that you have no unique view to add. That’s why I hate model answers; because that’s basically saying that there is only one answer to any given question. And if you venture even just a little beyond the porch of hard sciences, that’s no longer true.
So I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s good to read fiction. It’s good to observe and engage with creative works, and, even better, creative people. Surrounding yourself with creativity, uniqueness and individuality helps you to realise that you too are unique (just like everybody else, ironically), you too have something inside you that no one else has. Yes you are influenced by society and education and religion and all those things, but you are a unique non-linear system. The way you combine with those external factors will be fundamentally different to the way someone else combines with those very same factors – and that’s individuality. Your personality, your quirks your you-ness. These are things you should value highly- it’s the only part of you that no one else has or ever can have. So, be creative. Cultivate creative relationships. Read fiction. Engage in visual creativity. Think uniquely. Feel uniquely. Be yourself.
I, for one, am really going to try to!