February 26, 2006

Uninspired

It's strange how easily I can write for this blog, even when I am at a complete loss for words for any other writing I need to do. Last week, I stared blankly at my word processor for over 10 hours across four days, trying to come up with something meaningful for the March issue of Muslim Link. I couldn't. I wrote a few lines here and there, but nothing that stood out as something I was willing to have published.

Muslim Link prints over 10,000 copies per month and is distributed in three cities, so anything I write there has a fairly sizable audience. Normally, I don't worry about audiences, but somehow I could not do it this time. The weight of my writers block was too much, and thus, I scrapped everything I had written and gave up.

The title "Irrelevant Opinions" works because it reminds me that I'm writing for myself. Whether I have an audience or not is irrelevant. Occasionally, I will write something that no one will understand, or at least, only a few will be able to interpret the meaning. And as far as I'm concerned, that's perfectly fine. A friend once suggested an 80/20 split on the generality of writing: 80% should be easily understood by everyone, while 20% could be reserved for a "niche" audience. Often, I will go for the opposite, that 80% of my meaning will be for myself and a handful of others who might understand the background, while just 20% can be understood at face value. And I will continue doing this, lest I start worrying about the lowest common denominator.

Bill Watterson, the author of Calvin and Hobbes, refused to license his characters or his work for fear that it would become impersonal. Even though he had an audience of over 2,400 newspapers worldwide, he always insisted that he was writing the comics only for himself and his wife. That kept the characters honest and entertaining, as the comics kept a strong personal voice until the very last strip was published. He put everything he had into it, rather than sell out and run a massive media empire as Jim Davis has done with Garfield. And we all know how funny Garfield has been for the last 15 years.

Perhaps this is why the short film "More" meant so much to me. Last week, I came across this six-minute animated short that was nominated for an Academy Award. The movie is available on-line for anyone interested; Quicktime is required to view it. I've developed a number of different interpretations of this, and am interested to see how others view it.

8 comments:

  1. More was on Despair.com before. When we create something from nothing, it sometimes seems like the most brilliant idea, but when we want to share that idea it can grow so large that it becomes bloated. Then that idea is destructive and we are faced with a new set of problems.

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  2. If you think Garfield comics are lame, watch the movie. Shan and I watched a bit of it last week and it was so utterly bad that it was funny. It's disappointing to see how NOT funny that whole franchise has become. Then again, I don't really remember a time when it was funny...

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  3. The Saturday morning cartoon of Garfield and Friends was quite good, I would say. The humour was a little more sophisticated, and the whole U.S. Acres (Orson's Farm) segment was usually good satire. It was the best thing on Saturday morning TV at the time.

    The problem now is that Garfield comics are generally drawn and written by regular employees of the Garfield empire. Garfield is just another assembly-line product now, and has lacked any substance for many years.

    When the protagonist of More completed his product, the product was more than just the sum of it's parts - it was a deeply personal endeavour that burned with the fire of his belly. This was illustrated literally in the movie, but should be understood figuratively; he put everything he had into the product.

    When Bliss became another mass-produced, artificial gadget to bring some colour into the lives of the lifeless workers, the protagonist became the very thing he hated. He gave up on everything he worked so hard for, so that he could cash in on his work. And in the end, he was left with nothing - his bliss was only artificial, and it wasn't enough to put an end to the haunting of the children in the playground. He longed for that joy the children experienced, but no factory could churn it out.

    I was aware that More was on Despair for a while, but never really looked into it until recently. It definitely ranks as one of the best movies I have seen in a while.

    In the same way, I want to keep my writing personal, which has me thinking about disabling comments in this blog. But I'll hold off on that for now, until I really find myself trying to cater to my limited audience, when I should rather be writing whatever I want, whenever I want.

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  4. I admit the movie was a big flop, but Gafield comics are not all lame. I will not justify my opinion.

    As for the 80/20 split, I like the 100/0 way where my writing makes no sense to anyone, even those who know me. You'll find all of my writing on my alternate blog to be like that. I like it. I don't have to live up to anyone's expectations of me.

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  5. Garfield had it's moments. They were few and far between, but I do recall laughing while reading the comics on occasion.

    The hour-long Garfield in Hollywood was hilarious.

    There was a time when I thought I'd watch the new Garfield movie, but it looked incredibly stupid and I think watching it would have made me a little dumber.

    Curious George, on the other hand, is still being considered...

    I think I may drop comments in the future, and see how that affects my writing. In the meantime, I still haven't heard anyone's opinions on More.

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  6. I like your style faraz, keep up the nice blog! As for my "ratio" I guess my blog is my attempt to convert the dinner debates and conversations I've had with my family onto the blogosphere.

    Truthfully, I know I cannot solve all the problems of the world, and yet me and my mom think we can.

    In that sense I'm 100% out my league, 0% grounded in reality!

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  7. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for visiting! I think being grounded in reality is a luxury most blogs cannot afford. After all, it is very easy to propose groundbreaking opinions on blogs, because readers never actually expect any of the great ideas to come to fruition! They remain on the pages of cyberspace, and thus need not be practical or coherent.

    If reality was a virtue in media, our news networks would be very different. Regardless, it's nice to have the varying viewpoints either way, so those of us trying to handle reality can assess things more thoroughly.

    That being said, I will keep your dinner debates in my reading list, and hopefully we can all help each other out in getting a little bit closer to reality in the future.

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  8. Eighty-Twenty: it sounds like something a tall person would say.

    The view I have is that it all depends on the purpose of the prose. If it is truely just for you, why put it up on the Internet? Why not just keep an offline journal?

    As for the author of Calvin and Hobbes...well I think it is great that he did not 'sell-out'. But he did sell his work. His wife may have been his Muse, but his audience was millions.

    When writing, the reader(s) must always be considered. That said, I am leaning towards this hypothesis: the only time the content should be 0/100 is when the only intended reader is the author.

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