TODAY’S WRITING TIP: DO NOT BE CONSTRAINED BY REALITY. REALITY, TO THE IMAGINATIVE LIKE FICTIONIST MAX BROOKS, IS ONLY A SPRINGBOARD TO FANTASY.
Finally, after all these years, I make no judgment of art, save for the way it affects me.
Some art stirs the soul or otherwise transports the viewer to alternate realities or proposes alternatives to what is for the moment considered real, but that’s no requisite for me. The basic requirement is to provoke thoughts, drawing emotions that can range from anger to gratitude, from anguish to a sense of serenity, from fear to love, from pain to joy, even a moment’s laughter or temporary shock.
They say great times make great men. I don’t buy it. —Max Brooks, World War Z
In the community of writers, I sense a reverence for fiction that is sometimes given at the expense of non-fiction. I have no proof of this, so I guess I should accept the likelihood that it is only paranoia on my part, as I am a journalist whose work by nature may be construed to be limited to the who, what, when, where, why, and how of life. But for lifestyle journalists like myself, facts are only half the work. Our work demands craft and creativity; our stories must often carry an element of fantasy, provoking self-examination or a soul-search, arousing desires, igniting dreams…
There are many reasons I am a lifestyle journalist and one of them is because to me life is a great source of inspiration, a great work of art, passing and fleeting, sometimes long term, sometimes seasonal, that needs to be recorded or at least shared at the very moment it occurs. Everyday life, like the most venerable piece of art, has the power to bring the best and the worst emotion out of us. That’s what art does—some of it becomes so timeless they end up in a museum, to be preserved and honored forever; others end up on a newspaper page or a magazine page or a brief half-a-minute on the TV screen or on three minutes of radio waves, to be shared and spread for the moment, the hour, the day, the month. Always, art is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on our openness, we all are a “viewer, reader, or listener” of the great art of life, who often forget we are a subject of it, not to mention a co-creator of it.
To live is to showcase the design by which each of us has been created and who’s to say how we should live to serve this particular purpose? In many film genres, in songs, in poetry and literature, in painting and sculpture, there is as much peace as there is violence, there is poverty as well as riches, there is hope as well as hopelessness, there is life as well as death. Always, art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
To live is an art form. Like paintings on the wall, our life is defined by a series of often unrelated circumstances. No such thing as a happy life or a sad life. It only depends on which part of it we choose to highlight or celebrate or hang on the wall to remember as long as we can. Maybe now we are overdoing it a little, with all the self-portraits or selfies we impose upon others on Instagram or Facebook, the insights and revelations and observations that we share on Twitter or Tumbler, all the narcissism of which our young have been accused, but there’s no denying it: Each of us is a work of art or has the potential to be one and thus has the power to make an impact on others, good or bad. In the oft-maligned social media, that is one way of drawing the line between sharing what you have to share — learnings or unlearning, joy or sorrow, light or darkness, reality or fantasy — by way of information or inspiration, warning or encouragement and simply calling undue attention to yourself.
When you share a part of you that has the potential to make viewers feel more alive, you serve the same purpose for which art is made. Art does save our soul. In Max Brooks’s international bestseller World War Z, from which Brad Pitt’s disaster film of the same title drew not even an excerpt but a possibility, where, as in many other movies playing around the idea of humanity’s extinction, there are scenes depicting the mad rush to save precious, priceless artworks, I am reminded of the creative/destructive impulses we carry in our DNA.
What a great metaphor the zombies are, the undead, the living dead—and I didn’t see them that way until World War Z! As much as we are given the power to save ourselves, we are in fact the very instrument of our very own destruction.
Incidentally, World War Z appeals to me because it is a great fiction written like non-fiction and it is in the way it is written that it makes the greatest impact.