Departing Concretes for Abstract

One thing I have been grappling with here in Iceland is the appropriate use of abstract reflections.  In a landscape as dramatic and uniquely beautiful as this, I feel it is very easy to write strictly in terms of concretes.  What there is to see, what has happened, etc.  The landscape itself practically begs to be written about.

However, mixing in our reflections with these concrete elements in a manner that is understandable and concise is another thing entirely, and has become a point of interest for me.  Writing a piece that strikes the perfect balance between showing and reflecting through the use of things such as objective correlatives is quite difficult.  I feel as though I have the concrete aspect down pretty well, and constant use of a thesaurus has granted my scene writing terrific specificity, but without that extra layer of deeper thought my writing is being held back in a way that cannot be remedied by any other means than including such reflections.

I first started thinking about this aspect of my writing, the deeper thought aspect, after receiving a comment on my poem from a reader who “did not know what to think”.  After pondering the comment, I realized I didn’t know what to think myself.  It wasn’t in my writing, or even in my own mind.

Since then, I’ve been making every effort to go beyond the surface layer of my writing, to make myself reflect upon what I’ve experienced, and to share those reflections effectively with my readers.  I think it may be one of the hardest aspects of writing, and it has also led me to understand how vastly I have under-appreciated the difficulty of the craft.

Grateful for Isolated Iceland

To me, it would seem that current events have been especially grim as of late.  Life has taken on an uneasy undertone as the frequency of mass shootings committed in America reaches an all-time high, and the political climate appears to destabilize more and more with each passing day.  Perhaps it is not the case, and I am being melodramatic, or perhaps it is just a product of my relatively newfound devotion to keeping up on things, especially American politics, but I mustn’t be alone in having these thoughts.

After waking up yesterday morning to yet another mass shooting, things seemed to fade to greyscale, as they often have a way of doing in light of such tragedies.  The only solace to be found was in the fact that it was not committed by Islamic extremists, and that alone I interpreted as an illuminating factor of how hard these weeks have been.  After the Orlando shooting, the worst in American history, I was left with a heavy heart, just as most of you were I am sure.  It hurts to see so many of our fellow countrymen and women needlessly stripped of their basic right to life, and to see so many others divided by the fear these egregious actions aim to cause.

After kind of a rough morning, I finally got myself out of the room and into the city of Reykjavik.  If I had known how much it would help my spirits, I would’ve done it much earlier.  Seeing other people carrying on with their days, smiling, laughing, eating, walking, taking pictures, just living their lives in general, helped me enormously, returning color to my life.  It almost feels like cheating, watching events of this nature unfold from afar in the comfortable isolated safety of Iceland, but I am relieved nonetheless.

Finally, in my extensive reading about these morbid affairs, I came across an old quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that outlines the problem with this trend perhaps better than anyone can, and I think I’ll conclude this post with it.  The United States could greatly benefit from another prophet of Dr. King’s caliber.

I’m not sure if it was a product of the website I took it from, but it is spaced in a way that is rather poetic, and I have elected to keep it in that same format below.

Thanks for reading.

 

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Why does place matter to my writing?

Within the broadly-defined practice of creative writing exist many distinct disciplines.  One such discipline, formally known as creative nonfiction, focuses on the recollection of that which we as writers have experienced in our own lives.  As a writer who has much more luck putting his own life into words than bringing the words themselves to life, nonfiction is an area of great interest to me.  In my limited study of the subject, one place-related term I came across frequently was “distance”.  “Distancing” yourself from the event you wish to write about can often grant a fresh piece, a reinterpretation in a new light, a recount which has shed the suffocating emotions that hinder true discovery and development.  Writing is anything but static, and I would argue that moving not only through time but also through space is important in providing necessary “distance” for crafting a creative nonfiction piece.

 

Throughout my life as a young adult, I have traveled a great deal.  Almost yearly, my family takes trips to the Carolinas, Ohio, New York City, and the Adirondacks.  Less regularly, I have been up and down both coasts of the United States, (from Seattle to San Francisco in the West and from Montreal to Orlando in the East) to Spain, to the Midwest, or to Canada.  My memory in and of these places has always been good, but as I age it is being ruthlessly worn by the incessant flow of time.  I have felt on multiple occasions as though my memories are continuously slipping through the cracks, escaping me forever, helplessly lost in the ever-growing void between myself and my childhood.  However, I am granted solace by the way these memories tend to return to me, appearing spontaneously in my mind’s eye as if they had never left, entirely intact.

 

Oftentimes I have observed this event to be triggered by a related experience.  I’ll see someone or something that spurs contemplation in my subconscious, firing a chain of neurons at a moments notice, and before I know it, a memory previously forgotten is at the forefront of my conscious thought.  I marvel nearly every time it happens.  Naturally, traveling aids this somewhat haphazard process.  Something about experiencing new things tends to help in uncovering the old, and too often is it that I feel the bland monotony of a well-scheduled life weighing on my creativity.

 

Although I may not know exactly how these memories return, or be able to predict when they will, their appearance grants me a superb opportunity as a writer to revisit pieces of my own history.  It is my hope that the more I travel the world around, the more I will be able to rediscover memories forgotten.