So I was having this whole meta thought the other day on writing Subtleties (I keep wanting to decapitalize that, so that it's even more subtle--subtle and pretentious!), which was about writing cliches. Pretty much everything I wrote is a big honking cliche--prostitution, rich and successful Xander, Spike's writing, certain relationship dynamics. But at the risk of spouting cheez-whiz, I think there's something potentially powerful in writing what moves you, and a lot of what moves me, gets me where I live, is commonplace. Style, clothing, food, furniture, jewelry. Moments of being or togetherness that are like snapshots, catalog ads of people lounging, living the good life in silken pajamas.
Call each of these things a sign. Each sign is something shared--even mass produced--like the idea of a cable-knit sweater that thousands of people could order and wear. But each sign collects meanings once you own a copy. The signs get stitched to other signs, like when you mark a piece of paper with random dots and then connect them in radiating patterns. So if you write about a sweater, and the way someone wears it, it's possible to pull in other associations and connotations that make the ordinary into something richer, because maybe that type of sweater suggests to you autumn in Maine, fishermen, the smell of salt, broken wood, strong hands, sand, lobster traps--and this thing is another layer of signs, a lot of which may be a bit common and trite as well, but you've got a larger vocabulary now, more connections, and a better chance of stringing together words in new and different combinations to find an emotion someone recognizes but hasn't seen expressed in quite that way before.
The most ordinary junk of our lives can become a collage. Labels like "outsider art," "naïve art," or "postmodern art" are broad and not especially useful, but under those labels can fall certain types of assemblage, like shrines made from bottlecaps and broken glass and gum wrappers. And in the same kind of way, our lives are made from meals and clothes and money and steaks on the grill and the smell of candles when you snuff them out, sex and anxiety and cut grass and Mondays and the monotone of rain, which are all connected to and evoked by the sweater that someone pulls on in the morning.
And I know I'm just making lists, but I'm big on catalogs and lexicons and what they say.
All of that babble above seemed interesting when I wrote it a few hours ago, but now...eh.
I just belatedly watched the Angel episode "Sacrifice." ( Collapse )