The Other Is Why I Write: Two Posts In One

The Other is the thing that interests me most in art.  The literary characters I have the most fondness for and interest in are the ones that did not quite fit the place where they found themselves.  Something temperamentally placed them just outside the expected norms for a person like them (Joe Christmas).  Or their point of view was slightly askew as compared to the others around them and that set them apart (Nick Carraway).

In literature, The Other, is a common trope.  The author will sometimes throw this person into a situation or a social setting as a catalyzing agent to have them upset the apple cart.  The Other is also used as the point of view character who can comment on this social setting.  Often times the character does both.

As someone who is not quite right for situations and who doesn’t quite fit into expected roles, this concept has always been of special interest.  For me it has been more Nick Carraway and less Joe Christmas.  My life has been more intellectual study and entertainment by the differences and less existentially isolated.

I have been a part of social circles and worlds, but even as I have been part of them I have sat outside of them.  I have been inside the circus, but have stayed apart of it by being entertained and bemused by what is happening around me without taking part in it completely.  Maybe that is a fault of mine.  Maybe not allowing myself to become a part of what ever world I inhabited at the time is how I’ve ended up here.  That isn’t necessarily good or bad.  I won’t know that until the game is over and the outcome is decided.

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Why do you write?  I have been thinking about that question for a few weeks now.  I don’t write expecting a lot of money.  (To anyone with a magazine or publishing company:  This isn’t to say I don’t want to make living doing it. I will write for money.  Tweet or email me.) I certainly don’t write to be famous.  I write because there are things only I can say and stories only I can tell and I want those out there.

You can tell the difference between someone who is writing a story that they have to tell and someone writing for a paycheck.  By stories you have to tell I don’t necessarily mean an overwrought piece of fiction trying to solve all the problems of the world.  It doesn’t have to be some earth-shattering philosophical treatise or genre changing novel.  I just mean a good story well told that only that author could tell that way.

I love sports and I love good writing about sports, so during the week I read a lot of sports columns.  Unfortunately, for every ten columns I read, at least two will be hackery.  By hackery I mean the writer is obviously taking a position he doesn’t believe or the lazy position on a subject just to get page hits and to fulfill his contractually obligated word count for the day.  For a sports columnist of certain age this leads to the inevitable once a year “I hate soccer” column.  It is recyclable and easy and will lead to many page hits from angry soccer fans.

Coming up with something new to say in 2 or 3 columns a week is hard, but you have to have enough pride in your work and respect for your readers to at least try.  Maybe that’s just me.  A guy who isn’t a professional writer hoping the people who are respect how lucky they are to do what they do.

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