There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham
I don’t consider myself a writer, but I do like to write. When I was young and naive, I used to tell myself that I would write about things that mean something. The question that followed this decision was, of course: What are the things that mean something? Different people search for different answers. Everything can mean something. The question I had asked myself had no answer.
After that, I started to think about things I find interesting and thought-provoking. There was only one conclusion that I could come up with – big issues are hard to write about. I am not able to answer the humanity’s hardest questions. I can’t even answer the easier ones. So, even if I defined one of the things-that-mean-something, how would I approach it?
I decided then that it is not up to the writer to answer questions. Sometimes, their job is only to ask them, and offer in return their own experiences and views. To offer one opinion – your own – as the ultimate truth would be completely wrong. Yes, I know there’s didactic literature out there, but I’ve never been fond of it. It becomes important only when the reader looks at it critically. We should always ask ourselves questions. Why does it have to be this way? Why does the author think this is the truth? Is my experience telling me something else? Some of the didactic literature gives wrong advices, and we should be able to question it. However, we should also think about someone else’s arguments and maybe they would make us change our mind. It’s fine to do that, I must stress. You are not “fake” if you change, it’s called personal growth.
Anyway, the way I see literature now is quite changed. What I learned in college was that it’s important to focus on your own ideas, and not the author’s. You can never know for sure what the author wanted to say, unless s/he said it in an article or an interview. The literature I like the most is not the literature that gives answers to some life questions in a moralizing way. The literature I like tries to present the world as it is, complex and ambiguous. Sometimes there are no answers, but you should still think about all that surrounds you. Even if it’s “just” a horror book, but it speaks to you in an indescribable way, it is for you a book about the things that mean something. And isn’t finding meaning in even the smallest things one of the greatest gifts of all?