Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Franzen, The Dalai Lama, and Connection

Here are few great quotes on writing I found on the interweb over the past few days. I've followed them up with a very spare attempt on my part to link them into something interesting. The first quote is from a Jonathan Franzen essay I found in The Guardian:

"When I write, I don't feel like a craftsman influenced by earlier craftsmen who were themselves influenced by earlier craftsmen. I feel like a member of a single, large virtual community in which I have dynamic relationships with other members of the community, most of whom are no longer living."

And here is another gem from the same article:

"There is an important paradox here that I would like to stress: the greater the autobiographical content of a fiction writer's work, the smaller its superficial resemblance to the writer's actual life. The deeper the writer digs for meaning, the more the random particulars of the writer's life become impediments to deliberate dreaming."

The third and final literary quote of the day is from a One Story interview with Stephen O'Connor:

"The unconscious, I have realized, is only interested in those things that are most important to me, those things that I most desire, am most afraid of, and so on. When I just let my unconscious have its way, it seems much more likely to lead me to issues that truly matter (to me and, I hope, to readers) than my conscious mind, which is much more hemmed in by defense mechanisms, clichés and trivial anxieties (“Will I be able to publish this story?” etc.)"

It seems the common themes here are an interest in writing from a deeper place and a belief that writing from a deeper place will lead to a stronger connection with others. It's another way to think of writing as a spiritual path, but instead of focusing on what happens to the writer, these quotes seem to be getting at what happens interpersonally when we write from those layers beneath the conscious mind. Do we really find more opportunity for connection there? Does it point towards an experience of our true nature? Is this how literature works?

Today the Dalai Lama tweeted, "The many factors which divide us are actually much more superficial than those we share."

It's probably going to far to say the understanding of these writers is the same as the Dalai Lama's, but it suggests to me, at least, that creating and consuming literature from these deep places can point us the same direction.


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