I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, crap! He’s finally snapped! He’s going to get himself a white hoodie and start jumping on random people so he can stab them in the neck with a #2 pencil to to make sure people get the irony!” First of all, no. Neither Altaiir nor Ezio jumped on ‘random’ people and I certainly wouldn’t, either. Secondly, I’m talking more about the seminal line in the titular Assassin’s Creed than I am their way of dealing with problems. The line in question: Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.
I was set on this course of thinking by one Henry Rollins. I saw on the Tube of You that he’d given some thoughts on Jesus. This bit’s sort of brief, but focus on what he says at about the 1:45 mark:
Rollins’ awesomeness aside, he makes a very good point that’s helping me get back into the groove of working on Citizen, a boost that I needed after this weekend’s experiment. Basically, it boils down to not listening to what other people might have to say about trying to do something creative or interesting with my life.
According to some, to make it as a writer, you have to pander to a certain demographic. Success in the modern literary world, according to sales figures, means main characters who are little more than blank slates onto which young & impressionable readers can project themselves, shallow stock supporting characters that do little more than fuel the ego of the protagonist (and by extension the author and/or reader) and presenting the whole project in an easily marketable way that can generate enough hype to overwhelm any criticism of the work itself. If sales trends are to be believed, this is the truth of the fiction market.
But remember, nothing is true.
Further, you don’t want to get too complicated, some might say. Don’t get to involved in your characters. Don’t stop to develop them. Don’t build a world that people can believe in. It’s just window-dressing, a green screen, and shouldn’t have any depth to it. Let readers project what they want into it just as they do the personality-deprived protagonist, and by the way, why are you trying to make that into a human being? You can’t spend time doing this stuff and expect to finish what you’re writing, let alone be successful with it, they’d cry. That’s not allowed!
And yet, everything is permitted.
You see what I’m doing here? I don’t have any intention of giving up. I won’t water down what I’m doing just to make it more palatable to the masses unused to the taste of something more complicated than gruel and wallpaper paste. I won’t compromise the visions that keep me up at night in order to make my work trendy. I don’t care what the teeming masses think is true, or what those in the world of business or sales or marketing think an individual is or is not allowed to do. Just because some people gave up on their dreams long ago doesn’t mean I have to do the same.
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.
It might seem a bit odd to take a line from a video game franchise this seriously, but when I stopped to think about what I’m trying to do, what I need to push myself to finish, I found myself ruminating on why it’s important, and not just to me. I’m certainly not expecting anything I write to change the world or sell a bazillion copies or even help me get away from the environment of the corporate day job. I know that it’d take months or even years after finishing just one novel for it to finally see print, and even then I’d be lucky to sell a dozen copies to friends and family.
That’s the truth of this situation.
Nothing is true.
I’m not allowed to expect anything more.
Everything is permitted.