Monday, March 30, 2020

Spring 2020 - Two Paintings by MLHolton

The euphoria felt at Spring's arrival is undeniable. It's like everything is waking from a great long slumber and S-T-E-T-C-H-I-N-G - WIDE AWAKE!

Two paintings follow, one painted last week -'Spring - from the Mountain Brow, 2020'.

The latter is an older Spring painting, when the warmth of the air and soil nurtures tulips to bloom.


Spring -from the Mountain Brow, 2020 - by MLHolton - (Signed and Dated)

Tulips in the Garden - by Canadian Artist, Margaret Lindsay Holton

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Writer's AIM - by M.L.Holton

'Protect Your Spirit', by MLHolton, 1991
There is a certain inevitability that a writer will have a reading critic who hates your work.

I encountered this last year when I learned that an assigned book reviewer for a local newspaper was intending to publish a disappointing '3-STAR' review of my latest novel.

It would have been the first '3-STAR' review after numerous '4 to 5 STAR' reviews from destinations as far flung as the UK, Germany and California.

Naturally, it was upsetting. It hurt.

I could not understand why the author would bother writing a review if she didn't like the book. So, naturally, I asked her why she did.

She responded quickly saying that it was no reflection on me as the author, but rather, a response to the work. (---huh?) When I queried further, she got defensive and said that she writes reviews for her audience not mine. (---huh? That was an odd thing to say. What became apparent was a telling lack of the 'meeting-of-the-minds'. We were not going to 'click', then or ever.

But my writer's mind could not let it go ... I wanted to understand WHY there was no bend in her opinion. Yes, I understand her opinion is her prerogative. But equally, there seemed no desire on her part to understand how and why I had written this work. There seemed no basic interest to empathize  - and this lack of empathy raised more questions than it answered ...

The bigger issue soon became, for me, about a writer's insatiable desire to be liked. Writers want our words to resonate with our readers. We want them to 'get it': to affirm our perspective, to applaud our insights and efforts. At a very primal human level, we want them to 'like', not only our work, but us.  

Well, clearly, Life just doesn't work that way. Critics critique: good or bad.
What's more, I know I have my own prejudices and blind spots too.

I do not, as example, care for 'horror'. - (There's quite enough of that in 'real life' : why would anyone want to amplify that in books or film?) - Because of this dislike, I know I could never write a unbiased review of a work of horror. I know my antipathy would reflect back badly in any review. So, I just wouldn't bother. I also know I am in the minority about the love of this genre. There are far more horror fans than there are historical fiction fans out there now. This fact invariably leads to the notion of 'popularity' and that quickly leads to the question of Why a Writer Writes ...

Am I writing to be popular? No. That's not my aim.
Am I writing to be understood? This is the most likely.

Novel writing, in particular, allows long-form exposition. It allows authors a chance to draw a large picture for readers of a constructed reality where characters act out their vices and virtues within fixed perimeters. The twists and turns of plot make sense within that invented world. As writers, we are offering a 'whole package' to readers of our personal vision, unique to our own experience and times. Our finished works represent our singular voice.

Writers generally aim for a kind of universality as chroniclers of the human condition. - As example, most writers compose with 'a sense of knowing' of familial relationships. They write with first-hand knowledge of the dynamics between mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, siblings, sons and grand-parents. We expect readers to resonate with these depictions - not only because they are commonplace - (everyone has a mother and father) - but because #families represent the common human framework from which all human life has emerged ... until very recently.

Emotional Empathy Shift - Example
Have you noticed this SHIFT too? 

There seems a growing propensity amongst a certain crowd to identify with fake 'super-humans' and #scifi #dystopian plots filled with #alien and #horrific characters.

They're not as interested in the earth-bound interactions of our common human family as they are in the antics of their own disenfranchised peers. The reasons for this jarring and fanciful Emotional Empathy SHIFT are manifold and not really the point of this post.

Even so, this observation does explain, to some degree, the 'off-reading' between the above noted book reviewer and myself. We will not, and perhaps fundamentally, cannot, see 'eye-to-eye'. We may be from the same typographical region of Southern Ontario in Canada. I know that we drink the same tap water from the Great Lake and breathe the same air - but we, as humans, are not 'like-minded'.

At core, the element that seems to distinguish our preferred 'likes' and 'dislikes' seems to be our age. We are separated by decades of generational 'screen' influence and life perspective. Her current lived 'reality' is not my 'reality', anymore than my current lived 'reality' is hers. Call it #AGEISM if you will.

And yet, this is the point where I start to realize and recognize that perhaps my writing ambition has, indeed, failed. If I have been able to conjure a believable fictional world filled with engaging characters that she could empathize with, then my writing craft would be as universal as I had aimed and hoped.

Or, perhaps it's just a lot simpler than that. - I hate horror and nonsensical alienating tropes and she doesn't like my way of writing. We are who we are - at this time and in this place - and that's that.

On a lighter note, I did just receive another 5-star review for TRILLIUM .... this time from the southeastern shore of Ireland by delightful, family-loving, Irish novelist, Mary Crowley.

So, all's good. Life really does go on - as we like it, or not.


Apropos the above, some #writers and #readers may find this link useful ... >