Three Things I Don’t Write, and Three Things I Do

by Jason Rolfe

ImageBrendan Connell challenged me to write about three things I don’t write about, and three more things that I do write about. The problem was, the very first thing on my list of things I don’t write about was “lists of three things I don’t write about” – needless to say, I had to revise my list in order to participate in this blog experience. I wouldn’t do that for just anyone, either, so when you’ve finished reading this and you’re feeling somehow cheated out of five minutes of life, blame Brendan!

Three Things I Don’t Write:

1. I do not write what other people want/expect/tell me to write – doing so is (a) not cool, and (b) fated to fail. I can only speak for myself, but the moment I start writing what others want/expect/tell me to write the words ring hollow and leave me feeling enormously dissatisfied. I write when I have something to say, when there are issues (internal and external) that I need to work through. If I can do so while entertaining others, that’s great, but in the end I write for very personal, probably selfish reasons.

2. I do not want to write the way other people write – I openly admit the influences on my work. They are (among others, but primarily) Alphonse Allais, Daniil Kharms, Albert Camus, Tom Stoppard, Sam Beckett, Flann O’Brien, Brendan Connell, Rhys Hughes, Evgenii Popov, D. Harlan Wilson and David Ives. I read these writers, and others, with a studious eye, but I don’t want to copy their unique styles, I want to learn from them in order to define and improve my unique style.

3. I do not want to write the same way I do today five years from now – The writing process, for me, is an evolutionary thing. It changes. At least it should change. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed an author’s first collection but found his or her fourth a bore, not because the writing was bad, but because the ideas were used and over-used in collections one through three. I find the lack of growth displayed by some writers, the lack of change, disappointing as a reader. I can’t tell you what I’ll be writing five years from now, but I can assure you that it will be completely different.

Three Things I Do:

1. Meaning and absence of meaning in the universe – I am Agnostic, which essentially means I sit on every possible fence I find. I cannot say for certain that the universe has a purpose (outside the ones we apply to it), nor can I say for certain that it doesn’t, but my writing tends to reflect the Absurdist side of this debate.

2. What happens when we die? – This has been a recurring theme since my first published short story in 2008. Actually, it’s been a recurring theme in my unpublished (and never to be published) writing since the mid-nineties. I don’t know whether we somehow survive the death of our physical bodies, or whether we simply cease to be, but I write a lot about it from up here on my Agnostic fence.

3. Nonsense! – While much of what I write is absurd, it’s technically more Nonsense than Absurdist. The underlying questions about meaning and meaninglessness are the same, and still fuel my need to write. Because I’m not certain I buy into Absurdist thought, I believe my work leans more toward Nonsense. Mind you,  I don’t actively sit down to write an “Absurdist” or “Nonsense” story. I just sit down to write, and when I’ve finished I try defining the piece in order to find it a good home.