‘Inny’ and ‘Outy’ are words we sometimes use to describe our navels. Does yours stick out or go in? Is yours an Inny or an Outy? I don’t really want to know, but the word navel interests me in the context of navel-gazing and writing.
Are you someone who likes to go deep as a writer or are you a writer of the world that passes by? So are you inclined to be an ‘inny’ writer or an ‘outy’ writer?
I love to read other people’s innermost thoughts. I enjoy the turmoil and pain of a good think. I want to know as much as possible about the workings of my internal world and less about the machinations of what’s out there. I’m an Inny, for sure.
Everywhere I look, newspapers, magazines, books, TV, films, are stories with beginnings, middles and ends. The characters always remain the same. There is little inner development with the promise of a qualitative change in these characters.
What appears like change is a set of stereotypical personalities being moved around in the various episodes of the stories like so many pieces of furniture repositioned again and again to produce different visual effects.
A historical setting for a story will not do much for the characters, either. The same stereotypes keep reappearing, being driven by the plot, beginning, middle and end, pain and pleasure, misery and happiness, it’s all there, and often superbly crafted. But to what end?
I know we make meaning with stories and they help us deal with difficulties in our lives. Or do they? Well, what can I say? Repositioning the furniture is not the kind of change I am interested in, nor would it help me find any meaning in my life.
I love just sitting there in my thoughts, in a world of my own creation. Sometimes there is a bit of navel-gazing, I cannot deny it. But more often than not it’s the antics of the mind – my mind – that I watch performing on my inner stage.
Philosophers and mathematicians are brilliant at dealing with thought. They can take a thought back to its illogical conclusion and start again, asking question upon question. They too write a story, but they call it theory or hypothesis.
If you look at my novel LOVE LIES: A Journal, you’ll find I have done just that. I’ve used Andre, the protagonist, as a device to illustrate the antics characteristic of the human mind. This has led to the novel becoming a series of illogical conclusions and restarts.
How does the book work for you, the reader? Well, as the dyed-in-the-wool Inny that I am, I invite you into the magic space of my imagination but don’t tell you the rules of the game. You have to pick up clues as you go along, figuring out for yourself what’s really happening to Andre.
Keep watching Andre as he goes in and out of his flat and in and out of his mind. Trying to make sense of him is a creative enterprise. You may discover something of yourself in the process. That is the author’s intention for the reader.
(Originally published 09.11.2009.)