There is a word out there, at this very moment, that is probably being misused somewhere in this country.
A wonderful, wash-over-you sort of word. It always conjures for me the images of freshly tilled Earth and that wonderful smell you get when standing in the middle of a heavily forested area; the fresh air, a hint of moss covering fallen tree trunks, and the satisfying crunch of browned leaves under your feet. It might have this effect because I’ve taken one too many hiking trips in my earlier years through the woods and in the mountains of British Columbia.
The word I’m talking about?
The sights, sounds, and smells this word brings up in my mind are now heavily glazed with a coat of annoyance due to the sheer amount I see it used as some synonym for “new, insightful, or fresh”.
Either that, or some marketing buzzword; but to be quite honest, I don’t really mind it being used in such a manner. If your vegetables, coffee, and various department store merchandise are all being sold to you as “organic” products, then sure. Usually it just means that it was grown without “chemicals” (I never really hear which ones, just that they are harmful) and that’s all well and good if you feel like paying an extra buck or two. I don’t care for organic products myself, but I don’t really mind that they exist either. They have a market, and they cater to it. It’s no different than advertisers putting “home-style” or “fresh” or “fat free” or whatever strikes a chord with consumers. “Home-style” does not mean it was cooked in a home, by a loving, doting mother who hands it down to you with a pat on the head and a kiss, which is clearly the nostalgic image of times past that they are trying to evoke with such a phrase. Likewise, “fresh” is rather ambiguous, and doesn’t really mean anything when placed on a product. Regardless of how sealed the package of that box of cookies you just bought is, it doesn’t stop the march of time. Fresh means “newly made or obtained; recently arrived; just come” (according to the dictionary, anyway) and that does not apply to cookies sitting on a supermarket shelf for days on end.
What I’m getting at is this; using words to evoke emotions that makes us wish to buy certain products is a cornerstone of the marketing empire. The word is not misused in this context, it is merely a tool in the arsenal of those who wish to promote their product to a certain audience.
Marketing is one thing, but general conversation is another.
Here is why this word is truly misused, and what has caused my loathing:
“That idea you had was very organic.”
“I love that book. It’s so introspective and organic.”
Okay, okay, I get it. I realize that the word in this context usually refers to something that seemed to have a life of it’s own, that grew and developed absent of structure or (sometimes) intentional thought. A mere colloquialism we have adopted.
The problem is the elitism we have prescribed it. It seems to hold some special meaning these days that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual meaning of the word. As though the thing described (usually being a work of art; movies, books, paintings, etc) is more “deep” or thought-provoking by being “organic”.
This, ladies and gentlemen, does not make any sense. Organic, as a base word, means, in essence, “something that is living”, and eventually became a colloquialism, “something that developed naturally, as though it were living” and then developed into the ridiculous “something that is (seemingly) more profound and fresh than other things out there.”
“Organic” is not a synonym for “original”.
That’s just being pretentious.
Brendon “organically produced” Regier
I’ve noticed something recently.
I was thinking about a lot of ideas I’ve had over the past few years, and about a lot of media that has come out in that time.
Now, this is nothing new, but most stories recently have been skewing towards a very dark, edgy tone.
I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past as well. It’s something writers do to lend a feeling of depth to a project. It’s a complete hoax in many cases, but it’s still used a lot.
I’m not sure where this stereotype came from, but it is generally accepted that lighthearted, colorful stories are for children, and darker, gritty stories are for adults.
It’s not that this isn’t true. It is. It just isn’t true in all cases.
The problem is when stories go for a really edgy feel to them for the sole purpose of appealing to an older audience, or making the story seem more “adult”.
That, however, is not in fact the thing I noticed recently; I just thought some context was in order.
What I noticed was how important evil is in a narrative.
You see, I love discussing things I watch and read with my friends; it makes for very interesting conversation a lot of the time. What my friends would often do (and would sometimes spark debate on my part) is dance around a particular point that’s basically always the same: “I didn’t watch X show because it has Y in it.” Fill that in with what you will; didn’t watch Breaking Bad because it had drugs in it; didn’t watch The Wire because it was full of racism and violence; I’m sure you get the picture.
I was reminded of a time back in 2001 when a much younger Brendon was at his piano teacher’s house for a weekly lesson. We were talking about how our respective weeks had been, and I mentioned how I had loved seeing the first Lord of the Rings movie, which had just come out.
“Oh,” said my piano teacher. “I walked out of it with my family when the wizard’s duel happened. Too much magic and witchcraft in that movie.”
I was taken aback. She had missed everything past that point? The journey past Rivendell and that incredible ending sequence with Boromir, and all the wonderful, touching, and tense moments in between? I could certainly understand someone being unsettled by or objecting to witchcraft as a concept; but as a plot device to push forward an incredible story with an amazing message that has lasted and enthralled people for decades, finally realized on screen?
No matter my level of understanding on why she did what she did, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed at it.
And that sentiment has not changed over the years.
It is my firm belief that objectionable content, when used correctly, only adds to a movie. This clearly varies from film to film, and depends entirely on what the film is trying to achieve or the message it is trying to send. The themes that permeate it.
To have a truly moving ending, the character must pass through trials. The severity of those trials will determine how grand the climax and payoff is.
The easiest example I can give is The Pilgrim’s Progress, a story of a journey from The City of Destruction to The Celestial City. All thinly-veiled allegorical meanings aside, if this was simply a guy walking from one city to another, it would be both boring and lacking in anything that brings fulfillment to the journey. But luckily, it isn’t just walking. He has to pass through places such as the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the city of Vanity, and The River of Death; all of which obviously sound like places you wouldn’t even want to go near (though it would be sort of badass to be able to say, “yeah, I live next to the RIVER OF DEATH”). The point being, he went through many trials, faced many dangers, and lost friends along the way. And the ending is more meaningful because of it.
I think it would be best to let Samwise Gamgee sum all this up:
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something.”
So I urge you today, if you are someone who has shied away from something simply because it contained an element you didn’t like, please reconsider.
Going back to the two examples I gave earlier, if I hadn’t given The Wire a shot because of all the objectionable material it contained (which is a lot), I wouldn’t have gotten to experience a very real, down-to-earth show that moved me and gave me new perspectives. It really has some incredible and touching moments.
And for everyone who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad simply because “it’s about drugs”… well, I just have to get this off my chest: you are flat-out incorrect. That show is about the characters that inhabit it. And those people are some of the best written characters I have ever seen grace the screen. Ever.
The darker the tunnel, the brighter the light at the end will seem.
Brendon “fully realizes the title of this post was totally incendiary” Regier
I find I get all my best writing done between the hours of one and four in the morning.
My “best writing” being writing which flows most naturally from the confusing recesses of my brain to the page, feeling the most inspired and making correct use of my diction without sounding horribly pretentious.
And I suppose I should clarify:
I am not an insomniac.
For a long time I called myself one, but insomnia is an inability to fall or stay asleep. I sleep fine, most nights. The issue for me is that I hate the daytime.
I feel so exhausted and lethargic during the day. It requires quite a bit of effort to do anything.
Once about ten’o’clock or so hits, however… that’s a different story.
The atmosphere is absolutely wonderful at night. If I go on a walk, I usually wait until it’s dark out. Maybe it’s the lack of people, of car noises, of disturbance in general. The knowledge that most others will be asleep means I may tread uninhibited through the streets, Coconut (my adorable dog) pulling on the leash a little as she scampers about, carefully avoiding patches of snow at all costs.
And yes, there is still a lot of snow where I live. Even though it’s almost May.
I think the fact that I know I won’t be disturbed while I write at night or walk outside is comforting. I’m just a person who enjoys the cool evening breeze, the moon and stars glowing softly above, beautiful shadows dancing across the pathway, encapsulated in solitude. It’s magic. Pure, natural magic.
Now then, on to other news:
I have finally got another short story on the go, which I am most excited about, and yet also apprehensive over.
I always feel like I’m cheating when I write short stories; as though I should probably be concentrating on my novel, but I suppose short fiction is helpful to build up my skills.
I once heard that you should concentrate on one or the other, novels or short fiction, as starting out in short fiction doesn’t always lead to a novel. This makes sense to me, but honestly, I’m not sure where my strength lies writing-wise. I suppose I’ll stick to both for now, and just see how my abilities develop.
Regardless of what I prove to be good at, my dream is still to see a novel published one day.
I gave up too many dreams from my childhood. I realized I probably couldn’t make it in the movie business, I’ll never be good at drawing or sketching, I’m not a particularly good actor, and I’ll never have superpowers.
I’m sticking to this one!
Keep an eye on those bookshelves, because one day my novel will help adorn them!
Brendon “is trying to shorten his posts so he doesn’t ramble so much” Regier