Monday, August 29, 2005

The Art of Fiction

It's a wet bank holiday, and therefore not so strange to be sat at the computer starting a weblog called "The Art of Fiction." The title is taken from an essay by Henry James, which has always seemed as good a starting point as any to a discussion on the creative process. It's perhaps also reassuring that almost as long as writers have been creating fiction, they've complained about things going to the dogs. In the past I've used a weblog for a number of reasons, but this time out, I'm setting myself a few small rules.

1. I will concentrate on the creative process
2. I will ignore, as much as is possible, the "business" of fiction
3. Where I refer to other writers or writing, I will do it by example

In the last 18 months "weblogs" have become commonplace, and although still in the format of a diary, it is not the diarist, as much as the newspaper columnist who comes to mind when reading the best of them.

For some time I've been struggling with the "purpose" of creativity and of striving to write good work, when one is doing so outside of the prevailing culture. In short, with little access to or affinity with mainstream publishing, what is the underlying point, value and aim of such endeavour? Am I still a writer and, if so, what sort of writer am I trying to be? These are general questions without an answer at the moment; but I have always felt strongly that all art requires a robust critical culture, otherwise it leaves all value judgements to that of either the market, or a small number of "guardians" of the that culture - and, that from reading the lives and letters of many of the writers I admire, that almost all of them benefited from a certain exegesis of their work.

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