It's something that comes up quite a bit as a subject of debate - I've seen it around here a few times, prowling around campus, the various other literary projects I'm involved in. Really, when it comes to anything artistic, the subject of experimentation can get quite heated. How far is too far? Is it still art if the creator is experimenting for the sake of experimentation, or should those exercises been classed as such? And I'm sure all of us have come across the excuse "Well, it's experimental
," as justification for all manner of things.
I have some pretty definite opinions on the matter (surprise, surprise), but that's not what this is about just now. I was reading "On Writing" (Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories, London: Picador, 1985) by Raymond Carver and came across a quote I found interesting. A few quotes, actually, but this one pertains specifically to experimental writing and I'm curious to see what others' thoughts are.
Too often "experimentation" is a license to be careless, silly or imitative in the writing. Even worse, a license to try to brutalize or alienate the reader. Too often such writing gives us no news of the world, or else describes a desert landscape and that's all - a few dunes and lizards here and there, but no people; a place uninhabited by anything recognizably human, a place of interest only to a few scientific specialists. [...] The real experimenters have to Make It New, as Pound urged, and in the process have to find things out for themselves. But if writers haven't taken leave leave of their senses, they also want to stay in touch with us, they want to carry news from their world to ours. (p 24)
The second quote is not entirely related, but offered as advice for everyone out there who says it, because just about everyone finds it pretty damn annoying when you do it, so think about this the next time you're presenting your work to someone (in any context):
(Emphasis is mine.)
"It would have been better if I'd taken the time." I was dumbfounded when I heard a novelist friend say this. I still am, if I think about it, which I don't. It's none of my business. But if the writing can't be made as good as it is within us to make it, then why do it? In the end, the satisfaction of having done our best, and the proof of that labor, is the one thing we can take into the grave. I wanted to say to my friend, for heaven's sake go do something else. There have to be easier and maybe more honest ways to try to earn a living. Or else just do it to the best of your abilities, your talents, and then don't justify or make excuses. Don't complain, don't explain. (p 25)