Fiction at Odds

Pablo Picasso's abstract painting, entitled "La Lecture"
Pablo Picasso’s abstract painting, entitled “La Lecture”

Of late, I have come to notice that my screen likes to glare at me mockingly every time I attempt to write an entry. It is as if the whiteness of the page simply wishes to be undisturbed and I begin to wonder whether there has been an agreement between the proxy of the blog and my own “ordinateur” to deliberately instigate and encourage this case of writer’s block.

The ironic part remains that the very first piece I had written for Grad Life (unpublished) was specifically about writer’s block: an explanation and how to treat it. Apparently, to resolve this conflict, one must simply write. So I set to do exactly that but somehow, I always return to my conspiring empty screen. So what’s going on?

A great lesson I have learned since joining this forum so far is that it is very difficult to transition between a writing habit in fiction to writing about subjects that are real, important to the audience and at the same capture their attention. The demand of short sentences in current culture of web communication can be very draining to fiction writers who put so much effort into wording sentences, using commas and dashes and colons generously and most importantly, spill their creativity through the descriptive adjectives of the language.

Writing fiction often stems from the psyche and emotional state of the writer which become reflected through the words and the language. I know many people dislike literary analysis with the commonly expressed reason, “Well, how can we even know that the writer said the sky was cloudy because he was sad. It’s just unfair to assume!”
True as that may be, but when it comes down to it, our sub conscious brain also plays a big role in our creative expression. Consider abstract art as a great example for that: was the artist really angry when he drew that big blob of red in the middle of the painting? Science explains that our sub conscious thoughts tend to express themselves in the colors we are attracted to, the setting we paint and write about and even the choice of words we make in our everyday conversation. So yes, it is highly likely that there was something unpleasant on the writer’s mind when he described the gloomy, rainy sky and also highly likely that the artist was angry or passionate or feeling sexually aroused when he threw that red paintball onto his canvas.

The hardest part in the transition from fictional creative writing to non-fiction is trying to write something that does not stem from emotional basis. Even on issues that one feels strongly about, it is still difficult to stop your psyche and emotions from spilling out onto the page and painting graceful, imaginative pictures for the readers. Instead, fiction writers feel constricted when attempting to write non-fiction or science writing as this requires active repression of their creative forces and instead replacing them with facts, opinions and concrete thoughts. The language and style of writing becomes different: shorter sentences, emphasis on flow and paragraph linking, lack of descriptions and images, lack of plot (no story to spin here), no character development (unless you’re reporting a story) and the language needs to be technical in accordance to the topic.

As you can see, these challenges can be difficult to overcome and the feeling of being restricted can result in writer’s block. Perhaps I just coined a new reason of why writer’s block occur, along with the already-familiar fear of failure and procrastination. Maybe, after all, there is a specific writer’s block for fiction writers.

The question remains: how does one balance their creative forces with the stating of facts and opinions? Unfortunately, I still have no answer to that but maybe we’ll find out as I continue to explore this new uncharted territory of blogging and non-fiction!

2 thoughts on “Fiction at Odds

  1. Whoah, interesting! I feel the complete opposite: fiction and non-fiction writing styles are complementary to me.

    A lot of the fiction I like makes use of shorter sentences, emphasizes flow and paragraph linking and sometimes lacks descriptions and images (so that the reader can imagine more things for him/herself). It can also get pretty technical.

    And when I write non-fiction, I try to have plot and character development where my plot is my overall theme/point and my character development consists of the intermediary steps I develop to get there. I really approach my research as “what is the kind of story do I want to tell/explain?”.

    And so instead as seeing it as a block, I see it as a careful crafting experience: how can I mix elements of both seamlessly to create an interesting end product? I put fiction in my non-fiction and non-fiction in my fiction! But this does circle back to your initial problem in the end: what *is* the kind of story I want to write about?


  2. Please, please, don’t lose your creativity when you start writing in science. Too many people think “objective” means “formal” and the result is a jargony mess. Science requires everything written to be meaningful, but not lifeless.

    The most powerful tools for communicating scientific ideas are metaphor and analogy, and they’re vastly under-used. Keep writing creatively, draw connections, and never be convinced that technical writing has to be detached and passive. There’s lots of great examples of engrossing science writing out there, although sadly, it is hidden amidst forests of jargon, acronyms, and almost unreadable dreck.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s