At some point in every writer's career, I imagine, there comes a moment when they say something to the effect of "I wrote it that way for a reason."
I'm still on the fence as to whether this is the sign of a writer finally coming into his own, or a mudpit that can engulf the boots of someone at most any stage in their career.
The Argument Pro (writer coming into his own) goes something like this: When you stand up on your own two feet in re your work and can speak eloquently in its defense, when you know why you did something — not just what your own motives were, but what the effect of your position would be on the finished work — that's the sign of a mature artist.
Now the hard part: you have to actually know what the effects of the stance you take on your work are. That means feedback from an actual audience, not just returning to the work and nodding sagely at it. I never realized how some things I took for granted, or never thought about at all, were confusing or turning off readers entirely.
What complicates matters further is when this is a part of what you're drawn to talk about in the first place. Some of the things that interest me enormously are not interesting to other people at all, and a great many of the things that preoccupy most people simply don't intrigue me. That's a problem, not just because my audience becomes that much smaller and more self-selecting (although that's really not a problem of production, but marketing). It means I know that much less about people and life, and my work reflects it.
If I "wrote it that way for a reason", and the reason is, I'm ignorant, that's not a reason. That's a dodge. It may not seem like a dodge to me, but it's sure going to seem like a dodge to anyone who picks up the work in question, reads it, and ends up with a permanently furrowed brow because they can't figure out why, or to what end, I made the choices I did.
A stinging criticism of David Lynch's Blue Velvet came by way of Roger Ebert, who was dismayed at the way the director handled Isabella Rossellini in the film. Lynch admitted in an interview that a scene where she appeared naked and beaten on someone's lawn was inspired by an experience he'd had as a young boy. Ebert didn't object to the appearance of the image; he objected to a) the way it was used to represent something totemistic and personal for the creator, and b) how the significance of all that remained inaccessible to the audience. We didn't see what Lynch had seen; we couldn't.
There's nothing wrong with having one's work informed by recesses within yourself that are not accessible from the outside. I doubt any genuinely good art could be made without drawing out the honey from those hives. But it has to be honey, not vinegar. If you created it that way for a reason, the rest of us need to have some inkling of what that reason is — and we're only going to have one chance to find out about it for the first time.
I'm not proposing any formulas here. The main thing I'm putting forth is, I guess, a sense of self-awareness that is not just about self-justification.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind