learning to glean

while reading the foreward by tom wolfe for his 80s new york novel, the bonfire of the vanities, i came across an interesting point that he was trying to make: that the task of writing fiction, namely in the novel form, requires a great deal of reporting, and that recording things can furnish a writer with materials to use. wolfe suggests that “literay genius” was is made up of “65 percent material and 35 percent the talent in the sacred crucible.”

material, material, material — what is it? my understanding of the word, at this point, would most likely include:
>> personal experiences – the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been, the things you’ve noticed
>> the things you know – the product of our education, the things we absorb intentionally i.e. films, television shows, pop songs, etc.
>> Imagination – the result of subconscious creative forces that somehow synthesize the two things above and create something that, in our unreflective, conscious minds, seem totally fresh and new

i guess if “material” can be broken down to the things i have mentioned (or anything like it), then this pursuit of material entails tailoring a lifestyle that will maximize the collection and retention of such material. perhaps that is why journalists are often ready-equipped to become writers because of their various world experiences, their tendency to jot these experiences down, and a way with words. for a cubicle-bound schmo such as myself, i think the accumulation of material will require more self-initiative. that may mean re-examining the everyday walks in the city to find details worthy of writing, reading sensational stories in the daily news and taking note of how it affects the way i view the world, or traveling around the world and keeping a perceptive mind rather than going into shutdown-tourist mode. it’s been truly foolish of me to think that i can just sit in my room and just make things up as i go along. i guess some people with great literary talent can take such an approach, but from personal experience, i have seen my limitations.

i guess what i’m trying to determine is how important it is to record the things in my life, and if it is importnat, to what lengths i should go to in order to maximize life so that experiences are fresh, interesting, and even eventful. tom wolfe noted that we now live in a world where there is no such thing as reality and what exists in its place is absurdity. of course, we often feel that life is just a string of predictable events that ultimately produce pre-packaged results — but maybe he has a point. maybe if every waking moment in my life can be useful material for a writing project, then every moment alive is worth living. is it a forced attempt to make life more interesting for myself? a therapeutic measure perhaps? well, as long as i can buy into it, i can’t see where it may hurt. the material hunt begins. i guess i ought to wish really hard for that 35 percent talent.

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