I Forgot To Look In

E.M. Forster wrote:

“No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy- that is to say, has given so complete a picture of man’s life, both on its domestic and heroic side. No English novelist has explored man’s soul as deeply as Dostoyevsky. And no novelist anywhere has analyzed the modern consciousness as successfully as Marcel Proust.”

I would personally like to add Chekhov’s name to the list. I truly believe that Anton Chekhov is the master of story telling. Since to quote Forster again the prime and fundamental aspect of the novel is “its story telling”.

I can’t think of an English novelist who writes the way these great masters do. Can you? As a matter of fact I don’t know if there is a writer from the current generation of writers who writes like any of the great masters.

Like every one of you writers out there I have been writing since I was a kid. But when I first decided to make writing the main thing in my life, I started to enroll in writing courses and seminars and spent hours reading about writing. I bought all the books on writing and publishing that I could lay my hands on. Books with titles like How to Write the Next Bestseller, or How to Write the Blockbuster, or How to Get Ideas that Sell, etc. Naïve as I was I thought I will not only learn how to write from all these books and courses but also produce the next number one bestseller. Since the common and main theme of those books was how to write and make money from writing. I wanted to make it to the top, that’s why I thought of choosing to write about topics and subjects that people like to read, that appeal to them. I took every advice they offered on how to open my story with a bang, choose my characters in such a way and give them traits so that they become bigger than life. Make my plot complicated so that the reader is hooked to my story. I followed the formula.

And with the advance of technology and social networking there are yet newer formulae and patterns for success to adapt. Even in the simple art of blogging, there’s the Freshly Pressed page. Like every other blogger out there I know if I make it on that I will have more success and followers. Right? And to do that I have to blog to beat the algorithm, so once again there’s a formula.

But there came a time when I was so busy following instructions that I strayed from my path and lost my authenticity. I forgot the one main thing, to look inside me. I forgot what I was made of. My fears, my loves, my likes, my hatreds, my phobias, my dreams. As the late Ray Bradbury wrote:

“When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange- we’re so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in.”


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6 Responses to I Forgot To Look In

  1. Samir says:

    I was actually thinking the same think a couple of days ago about English novelists compared to other world writers – I wonder if we were in sync? 😉

    I, too, drew the same conclusion: I cannot think of an English novelist now or then that equals the others.

    As for contemporary fiction, I do believe there are some remarkable writers out there and while they may not have the scope or depth of the greats, I think they purposefully tone it down because the audience of today may not exactly want to read that level of detail in an epic. And if they did, then they can just pick up the originals, right?

    • chichikir says:

      I don’t think the new generation read the classics and I agree about not wanting that much of detail in an epic. Last winter I tried to reread some of the classics. I stopped after Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace.
      But almost all the books I read lately made me miss the classics. In one of them not only the villain could escape from prison by hiding some kind of knife in his arm under his skin, but he flew his boat over miles and miles of houses and landed exactly in the backyard of the people he was after. Come on even Rambo…

  2. The only one that I can think of who comes close is George Eliot and that’s really only for Middlemarch

  3. Yes, television and movies have definitely impacted contemporary fiction! There is much to be said about reading the classics versus today’s writers. I doubt most young people today have the slightest idea what it takes to be considered a classic, unless it’s studied to death in the classroom. Their appreciation of those earlier writers may never be explored as a result.

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