Real or Imagined? Fact or Fantasy?

Drake used to admire writers, especially those whose command of language could bring people exposed to their words to tears or prompt readers to join uprisings. But now he understands that writers are simply manipulators, men and women who strive to sculpt the emotions of people who read. Writers diminish humankind by usurping the roles naturally played by parents and mentors; writers replace natural responses to the world around us with artificial reactions spawned by exposure to warped imaginations. Writers are demonic!

A woman once told Drake he could always tell by her visible clothing whether she was wearing underwear. Jeans always signaled nudity “under the canvas.” Only once did he have occasion to verify her words. He has since longed for more opportunities.

Now, tell me, is Drake’s memory real or did it erupt from a writer’s concupiscent imagination? And,  months or years later, when he picked up the telephone in the hope of persuading her to relive the experience, was he mistaken when he heard her ask, “Do you remember how quickly you left?” She was, of course, referring to a recollection of their single full-on engagement. It was that event that took place at hypersonic speed because Drake was young and more than a little drunk and frightened and incredibly libidinous. It was earlier, long before the phone call, that she said “I hope the next time will be a slower, more leisurely undertaking.” Yet Drake’s recollections might not be his own. They may have been planted in his brain by a writer. Drake might simply be a character whose experiences were concocted to guide a reader’s imagination down a hazy path.

But that could be Drake’s true memories talking, too, couldn’t it? Did Drake remember those events or were they merely mental inventions? Is Drake real, or are these “memories” of his simply creations of my own making, formed to manipulate your thoughts, dear reader? “Am I real,” Drake asked, “or do I exist only in a writer’s mind?” The interesting thing about that question is that existence “only in a writer’s mind” changes the moment another reader sees what the writer has written. And Drake knows that. He knows his existence, whether real or imagined, is confirmed the instant a reader willingly conspires with the writer to make it so.

See? Writers’ imaginations are demonic and debauched and, from time to time, nostalgic or forward-thinking. Writers sometimes wish they could relive the past. Or reenact it in revised form. Or craft a future suited to their desires. Yet aren’t writers people, too? Aren’t they composed of atoms and molecules and hopes and dreams like the rest of humankind? In other words, aren’t they irrevocably flawed beings whose most ghastly visions portray not necessarily who they want to become but, instead, who they hope to avoid at all costs?

Yes, I realize the paragraphs I’ve written thus far skip, maddeningly from third person to first person to second person. Yes, I appreciate that writing in such a fashion tends to confuse and annoy the reader. And, yes, I understand casual readers (and, in fact, not-so-casual readers) may not consciously grasp the difference. Therein rests the opportunity to manipulate. Confusion can be either a writer’s enemy or her friend; either a rival or an ally. But you knew that, didn’t you? Of course you did. One need not be a writer to know that. Readers know better than writers the chaos of confusion and its effects on understanding.

But what about Drake? Perhaps unlike you, Drake had always wanted to be a writer. Yet he had been lazy; unwilling to invest the time and effort necessary to excel at the craft. His years in college were simply temporal expressions of privileged procrastination. And he knew it. He knew he was stalling, though he did not fully comprehend why. He often wondered, aloud, “will I, at some magical moment, know what I want to do with the rest of my life?” People in his presence at those moments either laughed or stepped away from him, seeming to sense they were in the presence of someone slightly unhinged. For Drake was, if nothing else, slightly unhinged. You probably knew that, too, didn’t you? That is, of course, if you believe in Drake’s existence…beyond the writer’s mind, I mean.

Yes, I’ve gone off course, haven’t I? We were talking about Drake’s desire, inhibited by his indolence, to become a writer. When  he concluded his future would rely always and exclusively on the availability of easy opportunities, regardless of discipline or field of endeavor, his ambition died. He no longer made half-hearted attempts to become a writer. Six months after receiving his bachelor of arts degree, with a major in humanities, he tore up ten applications graduate schools. He had hoped to pursue a professional career in veterinary medicine or chemistry or engineering. “Hope” might be too strong  a word for it. It was more a sense that, if a suitable opportunity presented itself, he might take it. But no such opportunity presented itself.

Drake taught himself to type while he was in high school. That writer’s skill, though it didn’t lead him where he wanted to go, served him well after college, when he sought clerical jobs. The fact that he was a male who could type instantly elevated him to the role of manager in clerical pools comprised almost exclusively of women. Though he recognized the inherent unfairness of that male privilege, he accepted it as an easy opportunity.

By now, you know Drake, don’t you? Though he hasn’t spoken directly to you, you know him as a lazy guy whose lethargy consistently overshadows his ambition. The reason you know him in that way is that I have told you as much. The questions I suggest you ask yourself are these: “Is this writer telling me the truth, or is he manipulating me in some way? And, if he is manipulating me, what are his motives for doing so?” Those are the questions I recommend you ask and answer.

Now, if I were to begin speaking directly to Drake, making you (the reader) privy to the conversation, the confusion about third person and first person and second person would grow exponentially. So I’ll not do that. Just know that, if I wanted to do that, I could. You see, I’m writing this blog post. You may have decided long ago to stop reading it because it’s either uninteresting or confusing or both. In that case, I’m talking to myself. Writers can manipulate their own minds, too, you know. We can fabricate intricate tales so convoluted and so improbable that we confuse ourselves. And in our confusion, we find ourselves struggling to understand what we have written and why. Just imagine the plight of our characters! How can Drake ever find his footing if I write about him in a way that confuses not only Drake but the real and imaginary people around him? Drake has no hope of becoming a fully-formed human being, not when the writer telling his story behaves as if he were, in fact, Drake. You know, unwilling to invest the time and effort necessary to excel at the craft.

You might be wondering why, in the second paragraph, I mentioned Drake’s experiences with the jeans-wearing woman. Did that event leave a scar or in some other way shape the direction of Drake’s life from that point forward? Or, was that entire scenario simply fabricated? Did it have some point? If Drake is real, you might ask him. If he is not, you might ask the writer. If the writer answers your question, though, you might well challenge the veracity of his answer. Because writers are simply manipulators, men and women who strive to sculpt the emotions of people who read.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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