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Know Jack #325 You Rebel You

“Two things remain eternally true and complement each other. In my view, they are: don’t snuff out your inspiration and power of imagination, don’t become a slave to the model; and the other, take a model and study it, for otherwise, your inspiration won’t take on material form.”

Vincent Van Gogh

I have always loved Van Gogh’s art. I found out recently that I also admire him as a person and am identify with some of the things he wrote concerning his view of his art and himself. The people who decide such things say he was mentally unstable.

He did commit himself. So, I suppose the experts may be correct about his mental health. However, the asylum set fire to his imagination and his genius. (“Ideas are coming in abundance. I am going to be a painting locomotive”) To be inspired by a sunflower and imagine the swirling of the cosmos on a starry night are certainly a departure from the norm. It is what sets the artist apart from all others.

For a time, I used a writing program. It worked out well enough and probably helped me improve my writing, but I gave it up rather quickly. It had trouble allowing for dialogue.

People that I know don’t use proper grammar in speech. And so the model breaks down when I want to bring characters to life. Sometimes I want a character to howdy himself across a room.

There is an existential value in knowing the elements of proper speech, sentence structure, and written communication. Just as the skeletal system provides a structure upon which to hang the rest of the body, the model of properly written American English is a solid foundation.

But, as Van Gogh pointed out, the artist/writer must not become a slave to the model. If you have read a few of these blogs, you understand that I am not an expert on writing. I think it was Peter Benchley who said that by the time he discovered that he knew nothing about writing, he was too famous to quit. I didn’t get that far so feel free to ignore me.

It’s good to know the rules. But if are going to break the rules, you must do it as an act of conscious rebellion, or it doesn’t work. Inspiration and imagination should not be bound to convention.

I was doing a book signing when this topic came up and a fan pointed out that I used a word that got Mark Twain banned from school libraries. It is not a nice word—but it is an honest word in the sense that it is the word the character would use. To think otherwise is to bury one’s head in the sands of current convention.

It was also the proper word to convey the emotional reaction I wanted the reader to have toward the speaker. Fear of appearing politically incorrect and not expressing the proper degree of diversity are, in my lowly opinion, enslaving modern fiction.


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