Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An English Confession

Yes, it's confession time.

I always hated the analysis of literature in English, in particular the words theme and symbolism. I'm sure there were others in the mix. What is the theme of this story/book? What does it tell us? What I kept hearing was theme = meaning. I just wanted to read the story---not analyze it for meaning and I certainly didn't care what the rose bush beside the steps in "The Scarlet Letter" symbolized. I really didn't.

The insistence of my English teachers (hush, Barry, you taught me Spanish!) on all of that turned me completely off literature, especially in my senior year. My teacher was very sweet but I learned to loathe Thomas Hardy. I passed primarily because I could, as the old saying goes, : if you can't dazzle them with brilliance---baffle them with B--S--. 

No, I was not a good student and I doubt if any of them ever thought I would persue a writing vocation. Seriously. Well, except for Mrs. Langley in junior high. She was the one who encouraged me to continue writing poetry and tried to get me into honors English in high school. It didn't happen.

I took a journalism class but dropped it after one semester when I found myself tooling around town selling ads for the yearbook to local businesses. Journalism is a business; I do understand that. But there were never any classes--no instruction whatsoever.

College was much better. I flew through Basic Comp I and left the instructor wondering why I was taking it. Simple answer: it was required for my major. It seems a lot of students were having trouble writing a coherent sentence. I was having a problem with boredom. Technical writing was required for my nursing major and I did well in it but it was boring, too. Creative writing I and II sparked my interest at last; I did well there because I liked what I was doing. I was writing a story. That was fun! No searching for meaning, no analysis pending, no symbology necessary. Just tell the story!

No, I'm not writing the Great American Novel nor do I have any ambition to do so.  I will simply write the best story I can, put my heart into it, and leave the reader to decide if it speaks to them . . .  and all that theme and symbolism stuff.
“A book is never, ever finished. You simply get to a point where you and your editor are reasonably happy with how it is and you go with that. Left to our own devices, a writer would endlessly fiddle with a book, changing little thing after little thing.”
― Kimberly Pauley

Yes, I'm in the throes of revision and understand that quote far too well!


  1. I am so relieved to learn I'm not the only one who still says, "Huh?" when I'm asked about the theme of my stories. I suppose they probably do have a theme, but I couldn't tell you what they are. And I most certainly didn't write the stories based on a theme. It's just a story to entertain myself (and hopefully other people, some day).

  2. Lana, I think they do. It's in the titles. Haven't you noticed? I have. :)


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