Sunday, June 12

A first novel: Thoughts on an artistic statement

I completed the first draft of my novel on May 9. I wrote a post to celebrate the occasion and make plans for the break from it before returning for revisions. I was going to prepare a couple of submissions to the second volume of Machine of Death. I was going to finish two short stories that were very nearly there. I was going to gain a fuller conception and understandings of the novel’s characters and what it was about.

I was less than successful in attaining these. I wasn’t lazy. I was busy, which is okay. Preparations had to be made for the summer. Things needed to be stored and things needed to be packed for our return to Africa. There were three days of driving. There was a week back in Minnesota visiting family and friends and canoeing and shooting and fishing and all that. There were two days on airplanes and in airports. There was a week in Kenya to visit the kids.

Now that we have mostly settled into life in Malawi and are prepared for the next two months here, I have finally found the time to work on these earlier goals. I haven’t returned to my earlier stories yet, but the Machine of Death stories are going well. The trouble is with my goals relating to my novel. I am starting to wonder if they aren’t too ambitious, if I might not need to start at something more fundamental, specifically an artist’s statement.

I never considered one before. They sounded pretentious. They sounded limiting, setting down what you think is worthwhile and what is not, but then I read some essays by Flannery O’Connor and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. I began to understand artistic statements better. They exist whether we elucidate them or not, even if they are as simple as entertaining through stories of men and women who are irresistibly drawn to one another despite conflicting personalities or of strong men who fight other strong men. They may be limiting, but they also give focus within that range. They do not have to be static either. They can change.

I have no idea what my artistic statement will be. I have snatches of what it might be, but I do not see the whole. I will give it some thought. I will experiment with some and see what I write from it.

1 comment:

Spencer said...

Hey, Chris. If you end up wanting an extra pair of eyes to look over your MOD stories, let me know. I'm struggling quite a bit with mine, and I know I could always use help.