Friday, November 19, 2010

What We Do

“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”  Baruch Spinoza

My guest is fiction novelist, Ryan O’Reilly.

Ryan is a bit of an adventurer, definitely an observer of life, he’s a businessmen, and freelance writer. I also think his mother has a strong heart to survive watching him go through the many adventures he's had. I’m betting that as with many of us who have pushed the envelope, mom was given a condensed version of many of those adventures.

Ryan has applied many of those experiences and observations in his writing. His article is a very well thought out commentary on the battle of many authors between making a living and answering the need within their soul to put pen to paper.

When I first experienced cacoethia scribendi – the urge to scribble – my immediate consideration was how to fit the art of writing into the business of everyday life. My experience up to that time had been that art and business are non-overlapping fields, and my fear was that I couldn’t make the two harmonize. When I told my parents I wanted to write, that everything else I wanted to do with my life would be in support of that, their response seemed to be mostly misunderstanding. I couldn’t make it clear why someone would want to be a writer. What place, after all, could literature have in a productive society? Why would you want to write?

I don’t think I’m alone in discovering this reaction in others, nor do I think that I am the first writer to have bouts of frustration after years of failing to reconcile the “why” question. After writing columns, articles and three books the friction from that question is still there for me. For a lot of us, there is no “reason” why we do what we do. It isn’t a choice. Writing is simply who we are, and we do it with little thought to money or recognition. For me, for example, I have a bottom desk drawer filled with scraps and fragments that will never see the light of day. At least, hopefully, not while I’m still alive.

One of my greatest joys is the simple act of recording my thoughts and observations; Some I use, and some are relegated to the bottom drawer. But our social evolution seems to frown on energy devoted to anything other than productivity. By many definitions writing is not productive in the sense that it does not result in an advantageous commodity. We who put pen to paper seem to be destined to hold our artistic endeavor at arms length from productive society, simply because the link between them isn’t always clear. We have to justify our art through success by either recognition or monetary compensation.

But that compulsion flirts with ridiculousness.

Those of us who choose to devote a life – or part of a life – to literature and language and learning are in a unique place. We walk between two worlds. Intellectually and emotionally we exist at the intersection of the mythos and the anthropos. The mythos is the ethereal realm of creativity, and the anthropos is the world of strictly human endeavor. Others think of anthropos as “the machine”; the mechanical component of our society. The machine exists as a function of the human mind, and the mythos is our relationship to life as an experience.

It is in the mind of the artist and the writer that the anthropos and the mythos interlock. Writers and artists are, you might say, the stitching that binds them. The artistic output we feel compelled to participate in is the by-product of our position. Art gives meaning to the otherwise banal survival instinct that makes up the business aspect of the world. The position of the artist on the border of the two worlds gives them perspective to see, and that perspective is increasingly important as people seek meaning. The emotional connection people feel in regard to their lives and the world around them depends on the emotion of artistic output. So while there may be no quantifiable justification to write, those who have the ability also have the obligation.

The role of writing in my life is one of substance. A lot of my time is spent doing the things I have to do to survive; work, make logistical decisions, commit to relationships, provide for my family. The rest of the time I spend trying to find meaning and substance in the world.

Spinoza said, “I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.” In my estimation there is no clearer mandate for the writer, poet or artist. Being in possession of this particular gift, and given the perspective that we have, the product of our endeavors must be a truth understandable by others. The components of the stories we tell must be applicable to a greater human experience. We must write about what we know, but write for people we don’t. We write to signify the commonality of all life, and all the stages of life.

That is why we do what we do.

  • What compels you to put pen to paper? 


A HAUNTING RETURN TO A FIERY LOVE TRIANGLE Brian Falk and his best friend, Dabney, share a passion for the beautiful and wealthy Jackie, their childhood playmate and the prize catch of their social set. But, the young men are also drawn to each other a secret, illicit connection that is cut short when Jackie chooses to wed the more moneyed Dabney. Soon after graduation, a devastated Brian flees his hometown and, for ten agonizing years, tries to overcome the anguish that has all but consumed him.

Now he is drawn back to try to answer some of the questions he can no longer ignore: Is he over Jackie? Was what he felt for Dabney really love? Does Jackie still love him? As Brian desperately searches for closure, old wounds are reopened, a new love appears and revelations about his past throw his life into renewed turmoil. Excerpt 
Buy: Amazon


Ryan O’Reilly, grandson of the O’Reilly Auto Parts founder, is also the author of the travel novel Snapshot, and a free-lance contributor to various newspapers and periodicals throughout the country. He studied English Literature at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri and is a member of the National Writers Association and the Writers League of Texas. Ryan's wild, often death-defying, adventures have nearly gotten him killed; they've also earned him travel writer street cred (see his Road Trip Tips for here). O’Reilly divides his time between his business in Austin, Texas and a small farm in Clever, Missouri.


Jo said...

Although I don't write novels, much as I would like to, I still love to write and have done so as long as I can remember although I had a hiatus of several years. I think the compulsion to set pen to paper is very well explained by Ryan.

Mason Canyon said...

Ryan, sounds like your adventures have been intriguing and I can see where that could add greatly to your writing. It's always good to follow your desires and writing seems to be a wonderful road you're traveling. Best of luck.

Sia, another wonderful author and interesting book.

Thoughts in Progress

sherilynwinrose said...

Your Spinoza quote is perfect. I often get odd looks for my curiosity of a situation.

Why do I write? Because it's the only way to get my characters to be quiet. smile

~Sia McKye~ said...

Good morning all.

Sherilyn, I really do think it's our curiosity about things we observe, how things work the interactions between people or their environment is what makes our characters live. Gives depth to our stories.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, I think Ryan explained it well too. The love of writing takes many forms. Everything from journals, short stories, novels, non-fiction, to letter writing and blogs. It answers the need within. Words seem to give understanding to what we see.

I know I'm writing something everyday. I enjoy it, too. :-)

James Rafferty said...

"The role of writing in my life is one of substance." I liked this quote a lot. I spend a lot of time in my life on so-called productive efforts that pay the bills, provide for my family and so on. But as a writer, I like to weigh in on the bigger picture, whether it's in blogging or in fiction. Your quote and the overall tone of this post are good answers for those people who would question why we choose to write.

~Sia McKye~ said...

It is a very interesting article, Ryan and I agree with James.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, Hi Ryan,

Great post. Thanks for sharing. I agree- writers write. Its what we're supposed to do-even if no one else ever reads. :D Cheers~

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia and Ryan .. interesting point about writers not contributing .. if it wasn't written down, or researched, or crafted into something enticing to readers .. then the world would be less productive - because we learn from the novels, the papers, the biographies .. etc .. so I think writing is productive - both for the writer, as well as & possibly more importantly for the world audience .. because for the last 500 years we've learnt all things from books .. how to write!, hobbies, geography, history et al ..

The Brian, Dabney and Jackie story sounds very interesting ..

Thanks - great read and post .. Hilary

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Ryan! The books sounds really interesting, and I like your take on writing! I've tried my hand at it, but it's not a calling for me as it is for so many others. But I've been an avid reader all my life and have learned so much from books! I'm grateful to all who write for giving me so much knowledge and entertainment!