My Alexander Popish Poem & a Yearning to Create

The more and more I think about my past, the more and more I realize that I have always yearned to create. I remember when I was a sophomore in college, one of my lit courses was 18th Century English Literature.  On one of our assignments, we had to write some sort of comparative analysis concerning some of the works we read – not anything out of the ordinary. Except there was an alternative assignment which was also allowed. We could write a creative work which mimicked the style and influence of an 18th century author or poet, but put in the context of the 20th century.

I jumped on it! Actually, I was the only one in the class to attempt such an assignment. Perhaps I was crazy. Some thought so, but I felt liberated to create for a grade. What could be better than that? (Other than getting a good grade.)

So I chose Alexander Pope as my muse, and I wrote an epic satirical poem in Pope’s style about the United States. I don’t know how many lines it ended up being (I need to count them someday) but I created this rhyming and satirical monstrous poem and turned it in as my assignment.

When I got it back, I received a B+. The problem, it seems, was that the imagery and wording was a little “dense” at times, thus being too vague for even my PHD professor to be able to understand. Fair enough. I admit it. I wasn’t even sure what I meant at times, using these extremely vague ideas which just floated endlessly from stanza to stanza. But I didn’t care, I had a blast writing it.

I know now what I didn’t know then. I needed to create, and when I had the chance, I jumped at it. I actually wasn’t thrilled to be a lit major. I really wanted to be a creative writing major, though my school didn’t have that option, so I settled on the second best. Being a lit major forced me to read all the classics, which I enjoyed, except for wordy individuals like Henry James. Sorry. Not going to go there. But actually, I didn’t like reading all that much. I trudged through it, but never thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to write. I wanted to create. I wanted to be free to explore and express myself with words.

Unfortunately, after I graduated, I thought I would never be a writer and so I embarked on a twenty year, writing-less journey that brought me back to being an indie author – something I never expected, but now embrace wholeheartedly embrace.

For me, Alexander Pope is just another reminder of what I was made to do – create. Thanks, 18th century lit!

I wanted to write pretentiously.

This post is kind of a continuation of what I was talking about yesterday: the four things I’ve learned about novel writing. But I feel the need to expound a little more on one of the topics.

I remember in the past when I tried to write, I would become very frustrated because when I re-read what I wrote, I didn’t sound like Faulkner. My vocabulary sounded unsophisticated, my descriptions were weak, and my metaphors were tired.

I wanted to sound important! I wanted to sound sophisticated! I wanted to sound like Alexander Pope, or John Milton and all those other authors I studied as an English major undergrad. I wanted to sound pretentious!

The other day I was reading several reviews of a novel by a certain author. Review after review mentioned how the language was “thick” and “hard to wade through” and the author would go on for paragraph after paragraph with elegant descriptions without saying much of anything.

In other words I WANTED TO SOUND LIKE THAT! I wanted to say nothing with a lot of words!

Boy, have I changed, and I think the main reason I’ve changed in my outlook about writing is that I’m finally comfortable with who I am and what I want to say.

I no longer want to sound pretentious. I want to sound real. I want to be real. I want to write with heart. I want to bring emotion to the surface. I want to build intensity and purpose into plot. I want to say something about the human condition, and I want to do it in a way that is open, honest, and simple. I want readers to say that when my novel ended, they wanted more.

One of the best reviews I have ever received was when a reviewer said that the beauty of my writing is in its simplicity. If that’s the case, I’ve accomplished my goal.

A story is a simple yet elegant matter. Why mess it up with a bunch of pretentious sounding words?