Some finer moments

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, May 6, 2011

To be a writer you must never give up trying even if you have no followers at all, writes RUSSELL SOABA


THIS article marks a year of storyboard’s appearance as a column in The National Weekender. This would certainly call for celebration but as storyboard looks around, the world rather appears grim and desolate.
There are several things that make storyboard feel this way.
First, the loss we feel when we see all our privileges get undone. In literary terms, this means unlearning all that we have learnt throughout the years for no other purpose than to better ourselves in order to look at the world from a fresher perspective.
It also means getting rid of the past in order to assume a new meaning in existence. All that, looked at seriously and from a philosophical angle, means precisely our sure progression towards that which needs to be understood and accepted.
Second, the need we see of re-orienting ourselves after that process of unlearning. This simply means accepting things as they are but doing something else more, like explaining these to the minds that are curious.
Third, making do with the new ideas we have adapted and treating them as our tangible moments of reality. They become our points of reference, our goals to strive towards.
Thus, and coming to the point of this article, the very idea of putting thought onto paper.
Now if we have been paying attention to the sentences above we would have noticed that none of the ideas expressed therein are storyboard’s own. They are merely repetitions of ideas first expressed by literary critics such as Spivak and her followers. They believe sincerely that we should do away with what we have learnt such as in the craft of writing and adapt new ways of representing these. What they are asking for there is this sentiment of originality. So now you get storyboard’s point.
He has been contributing views and opinions to this column for over a year now and even so does not seem content with what he has done. He sees no point in celebrating anything. And that is the true value and meaning of wanting to be a writer. To be a writer you must be prepared to accept that what you have produced so far is still left wanting in so many ways. And you must never give up trying even if you have no followers at all.
Here are some reasons why storyboard does not feel content with what he had been offering through this column for over a year.
Firstly, we have not succeeded in establishing a writer’s association even though the prospects looked good. It is true that over the years we have talked about such an organization, but that it was often difficult to find the necessary manpower as that organization’s office bearers. This does not mean that we are not capable of forming an association. Point worth noting here is that we are not committed enough.
Secondly, we lack that self-publishing initiative. This means simply coming up with a good manuscript, soliciting the necessary funds to cover editorial and associated costs and then of course finding the publisher to print the finished product. Now there are many who may argue that this is not an encouraging practice in Papua New Guinea. But storyboard will insist that this is the only way to get published in our country. The question of distribution and marketability will have to come later.
Thirdly, and because we lack that sense of originality as noted earlier, what we write now and which we regard as creative literature, are merely borrowed ideas. We have become stereotypes more than creative writers and that is sad. The list of our shortcomings would go on.
And now to look at the bright side of what storyboard has been offering throughout the last twelve months or so. The reader will probably realise that following storyboard week by week meant that we have indeed been learning the craft of writing all this time. Your best teacher in literature and creative writing is the one who lives and writes by example. Here, let us give storyboard a bow.
However, rather than elevate him to the point of self-submersion and all that stuff (some people do get carried away), let us pin point those areas where storyboard might have posed as a source of influence on the young writer. The first and obvious one noted is the way language has changed that young writer. The writer became simpler in his choice of words and whatever it was that he wanted to say was clearly understood. Do not try to be difficult. No one will be pleased with you if you do that. If you feel you are an academic then say so in the language that can be best understood by the layman. Otherwise he won’t follow you.
The writer also learnt the dangers of the cut and paste syndrome. Never copy another’s work. This is an important point. Last Friday’s editorial of this very newspaper carried that warning.
The writer learnt what it means to believe in oneself, to accept that he can write and that he can be marketable. On the subject of marketability a lot of those groomed by storyboard as students of literature and creative writing in their time now boast of being themselves in demand for jobs here and there. That is good to see. But the point worth noting here is that all those lessons learnt were not entirely restricted to the classroom environment. Some of those young journalists outside, we are aware, cannot do without storyboard nowadays.
But enough palaver. The last twelve months have been good for storyboard. And we do believe that he has proven himself to be a living example of what finer poetry there is, what finer prose there is and what finer moment of writing can be for a Papua New Guinean willing to become a writer. It was worth the trouble after all, those last twelve or so months. And we do, of course, acknowledge our stakeholders for making storyboard ever accessible to that reader who wants to become a writer.