I’m a bit worried now, and I was so excited about the World Writers’ Conference when I was asked to participate.
Do you know the theme song from the film “Team America: World Police”? It’s quite hard to reproduce in a curse-free blog but the gist of it is ‘America: EXTREMELY POSITIVE COLLOQUIAL AFFIRMATION’. The invitation to the World’s Writer Conference prompted me not only to quote that theme song in my emailed response, but also to salivate. And here’s why: writers, as a general rule, don’t get to talk to each other about writing.
We get six set questions: pen or computer? Morning or evening? Where do you get your ideas? Who do you read? What about e books? How can I get published? That is it.
But the topics of this conference are what I think about when I think about writing: how did narrative come to be the poor cousin of style? What will happen to us when everyone is reading books on their mobile phones? Why do I only feel like a Scottish writer when I go far away? Why am I asked if I’m being ‘political’ because I have female protagonists? What is it proper to write about? And why are writers treated so reverently? Most of us are broke, angry loners.
Now I’m worried the conference will either go completely Norman Mailer, or be reported as such. I’m from Glasgow: I don’t need to go to Edinburgh to have pointless, heated arguments.
It’s a very real worry. Public discussions often quickly descend into a familiar adversarial mode. We hear it on the radio, on TV, in newspapers, in Twitter storms. Adversarial discussion can only demand a Paxmanly ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Even if that isn’t what actually happens, arguments make good copy. It’s easy to report because there are adversaries and sides to take. There are losers and winners. That’s not what the Arts do. The Arts are not for winners. The Arts are for wonderers.
What would be lost is the very thing that made reading and writing both life-changing and wondrous: they allow us to explore unknown corners of a known world, to unpack the familiar in a way that sheds light on more complex and interesting questions.
These functions are why the Arts are so central to our understanding of the world. These functions are why we crave drama and narrative and story and art. To participate in the Arts is a sort of waking dream where we can reshuffle the known facts and see beyond our own, narrow perspective into new worlds.
I want to leave the conference with that peculiar, epiphanous, synaptic twang. I want to leave with more questions than I came with. I want to leave wondering.
EWWC Participant, Edinburgh 2012
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