“Everything in boxing is backwards.”
Someone say it in Million Dollar Baby film—a sport drama film based on F.X Toole’s book. On the screen, following that quote, there is scene showing unnatural act a boxer must do. If a boxer wants to move left he doesn’t step left but push his right toe. When he must move to right he uses left toe; and more absurd thing happened when he feels pain. Instead of running from the pain like a sane man do, he steps into it. Crazy!
Watching the unnatural act of boxing reminds me of writing fiction. I think both share similar absurdity. You know, like many amateur writers, I have also difficulties to face blank screen while searching a word to start. It scares me seeing white color in my word processor program while the cursor blinking waiting something to draw. That image annoys me, makes me hesitant to start writing. On the other hand, I found the words flow easily if I happened to have idea striking my head from nowhere. I think that’s why novice like me does not start writing if no idea bubbling in the head. Yet, the professionals suggest us to write even though we do not feel to write.
At first, I think such an advice is unnatural. You do something backwards. But after trying it for sometimes, I glad I found that advice. I realize that I cannot always wait for Muse. This beautiful fairy lady might visit me once a year in the office meeting or other place where I do not have tool or time to jot the idea down. Sorry, no. I cannot rely on her.
Experiencing how hard it is to start writing and knowing how easily the words pop up from my head once I start scrambling any word on the screen, I think that unnatural advice is part of physical law. You know, it follows the first law of Newton’s laws of motion. That law said: an object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.
Normally, if you found something hard to start, you want to do it as long as you can. Yet, the other advice suggest me that I should stop writing while I still have something to write. God, this is not only unnatural. This is absurd.
That advice comes with explanation that doing so, will make you eager to write the next day and throw the scary moment of facing blinking cursor for hours. Again, I think this advice align with the Newton’s Law.
The more I study writing the more I realize how unnatural this kind of craft. Look at all the good fiction books. The stories are interesting because they contain bad character decision, crazy conflict, or weird characters. Readers want to know that uncommon life in the story. Other writer also teaches me that to create a good story, I should never duck problem. Good writer always looking problem for their characters. The worst the problem the better the story will be. If the hero is hanging on the cliff with the wound in his shoulder, for example, throw him rocks or better send him a tornado.
You see, that is absurd. In real life we learn to avoid problem. We work hard, study hard, and doing everything beautifully to avoid problem. But to become a good writer, they suggest me to look for problem. That is ridiculous.
I start to think why people enjoy reading the bad fate of characters in the story. Some writers suggested it because readers want to feel lucky with the life they have by looking down, looking the poorer people than they are. Others suggested readers want to experience how we as human struggle. But it comes to my mind, may be the unnatural act of writing and the weird life in the story, represent something we always try to hide.
As we grow up we learn to act backward. If we are sad, we shouldn’t cry or at least do not show it openly. If we are angry we must control it, better do not show it. The same thing we do with other feeling such as interest, objection, and so on. At the end I think may be our daily normal and natural life do not as normal and natural as we thought. May be the unnatural life in fiction is the one that normal and natural.
Anyway, my writing tutor once said: fiction is truer than truth. The thing happened in life can be random and illogical, but in fiction everything must be logical. You know what? I think this backward crap is absurd. But I buy it anyway.
Image source: Muhammad Ali Center