(or perhaps, the problem therein)
When I write, whether it is in the form of prose fiction, blog post, or otherwise, I create an experience based on my own personal understanding of how the world works; likewise, standing on the other side of this medium-centric relationship – instead as a reader – I use my own experiences to derive a unique meaning from a particular work, one that I make my own. By taking the same approach from different sides of the medium, I am at odds with myself as a purveyor of my own work; the meaning that I try to create for an audience will inevitably be different from the meaning that the audience will derive for themselves. Yet, I’m completely okay with that.
People are unique, wonderful beings. Each person, by virtue of being alive at a particular moment that they read a story, is the living, breathing outcome of their own life narrative. Life in itself has meaning, and the one that a person has for themselves serves as the context and basis for comparison with everything that they perceive, whether it is a story, a song, or otherwise. Even for the creator themselves, a work is the product of specific, personal meaning, different from anyone else’s. It’s impossible to truly share the same specific experience, so why bother trying?
One of my favourite songs from Singin’ in the Rain is “Good Morning,” in which the characters Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown, and Kathy Seldon, celebrate their newfound hope in turning an upcoming movie into a musical. The sequence begins with a particular exchange between the three:
Don: Fellas, I feel this is my lucky day, March 23.
Cosmo: No, no your lucky day is the 24th.
Don: What do you mean the 24th?
Cosmo: It’s 1:30 already, It’s morning!
Kathy: Yes, and what a lovely mornin’!
My girlfriend’s favourite movie is Singin’ in the Rain, and when we first got together into our relationship, she pointed out her slight disappointment that our anniversary date was March 22 instead of the 23rd like above. She always remembers the date because of this movie, and also because of the similar circumstance in which we established the date of our anniversary. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t help but sing this song repeatedly, as I strolled happily to work with my piss-poor attempt at a Gene Kelly impersonation. I finally got around to watching this movie in its entirety when I flew down to see my girlfriend for the first time. It became a part of my own emotional experience due to associations with my wonderful relationship. I now love the rain.
This past monday, as I took the elevator down to buy myself breakfast, I was greeted with the wailing of a little boy, held in the arms of his father, consoled by his mother. There were several others in the elevator as well, and I could imagine that the child’s sobs were a nuisance, given the long ride down, but as the mother attempted to cheer the boy up with her singsong voice, I couldn’t help but hear the lyrics to the very same song. Inexplicably, I turned to the child, and joined in with the mother in singing Good Mornin’ to the little fellow. I gave the Gene Kelliest smile I could give, and somehow, it had reached him. He stopped crying. His mother mentioned to me that it was his absolute favourite song, and that he loved dancing along to the actors on the screen whenever a musical number came up, especially Good Mornin’. It reminded me of a similar experience that I had with Disney’s Pinocchio, and I understood right away the origin of his happiness, even if it was different from mine in relation to the song itself. I smiled for the rest of that morning, long after that family and I parted ways from the ground floor lobby.
The two of us in that elevator both loved that song, albeit for different reasons, and I can imagine that performing that song carried a different meaning to Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds during filming. Apparently, Reynolds’ lack of dance background was a source of derision from Kelly, which resulted in the former getting instruction from Fred Astaire. Reynolds would eventually bleed from her feet after that scene was shot, and I can imagine that despite how difficult, yet satisfying the result had been for her. Everyone’s experience was different, mine, the little boy’s, and Debbie’s, but the resulting happiness was the same.
In my writing, I don’t strive for authenticity of experience, but the authenticity of emotion. When I write about something, I do my best to look back on my life experiences, bringing them out in words. My happiness, sadness, anger, love, and everything else, is left behind in those words for those to pick up. They may not have my life, but they certainly know of the same happiness, sadness, anger, and love. If I can get them to look back fondly on their own lives by peering a bit into my own, I feel like I’ve made a difference. Everyone’s meaning is different, but as long as it’s genuinely their own, I’m completely fine with that. This is the reason why I write.