Some topics are relatively easy to write about. I can easily whip out a blog about, say, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, eating a meal, reading a book, watching TV, even going to the bathroom, and of the latter I could even write it in a delicate manner.
But when you get to absolutes that becomes another matter. The three biggest human absolutes, in my esteem, are love, sex and death. I know that because I have tried. In such context I have huge respect for those who have succeeded in writing a believable love story, say.
I have been in love. I have been blissfully in love with all the raptures contained therein. I have been in a state in which I couldn’t eat or sleep or have a contented moment if I was apart from my beloved if it was an actual state of mutually-shared love. If it was an unreciprocated love, then it was so much worse in terms of actual physical pain.
Now you might think that love stories are so much banal treacle and therefore they must be simple to whip up. Oh yeah, just try to write one. Love is not only complex but also perceptions of love vary from person to person, so how can you be all inclusive in your words? “I love you madly, my darling,” you tell her, or him. “And I love you, too,” he/she responds. Yet does the other person feel the same deep madness as do you, or is the other person’s a little more temperate. I mean, when I have fallen in love I have figuratively fallen over a cliff, with no holds barred. Love ever square inch of her and every nuance of her thoughts and feelings and I, of course, want her to feel the same. But, while she might profess that she does, How am I to know.
Then try to create a magnum opus out of such divergent feelings and make it appealing to all readers. I once knew a woman who was very scholarly, an avid reader, and a librarian and she decided one day she wanted to write a Harlequin Romance. How hard can it be?, she thought. Just a bunch of vapid sentimentality with the some heavy sighs and the odd ripped bodice thrown in. Well, she found ultimately it was one of the more difficult tasks she’d ever undertaken. Her MS was ultimately published by the company but she had no desire to repeat the experience and was left filled with admiration for those who turn out the things by the truckload.
Now, sex. Sex is like romance, but with reference to rigid boy parts and moist girly parts, a lot of urgency and prurience thrown in. Now, good sexual writing has to accomplish a couple of things. It has to be arousing – as in the description somebody once gave of the ideal erotic book being something that was impossible to read with both hands on the book while reading – but also sensual and hopefully not vulgar. Can you talk about “fucking” without being vulgar? Indeed you can, as DH Lawrence and Henry Miller proved but it takes even more skill than writing romance to get all the elements in place. And in attempting to eschew vulgarity you turn out something anodyne, then you have defeated the purpose. Erotica is designed to get you going, so it cannot be too delicate.
And finally, death. Well, in the first place nobody has ever really been there and those who protest they ‘have’ been there and came back, in truth didn’t really die or else they wouldn’t be around writing about it. So, the most we can get out of death writing is either the process of being terminal but being still able to get words together – and God love such people – or else descriptions of the deaths of others. But, it is a morbid topic and it behoves the writer not to become excessively lachrymose or there is the omnipresent threat of lapsing into sloppy sentimentality.
With any of the above I might think I am accomplished enough to express the topics, but I’m not so sure. I can write about romance, sex and death, but can I actually write them?