In the last month or so, I have read comments on a few different blogs pertaining to “writing without boundaries”, or “writing without limits”, which made me think at the time, that this wasn’t the case. I mean really, is writing without boundaries actually possible? What does it mean? Free your mind and be one with the world? There is another dimension? Or is it the case with us humans that we cannot escape some boundaries? For example, we know that wherever we come from, whatever cultural differences we have, one event we cannot escape and we will all experience. The ultimate boundary of death.
Now whether you do or do not believe in an afterlife is besides the point. We will all experience a full stop to this physical body currently inhabited whilst reading this. To add to that, unless you are on acid, you pretty much know where your body stops, and the rest of the world begins. These both apply to our physical being. But writing is an expunging of ideas, words, technique, form, from the mind, into a new form on the page (or screen). Do boundaries exist in the same way? Well much like a Presidential debate, let’s simplify some relatively complex ideas, and divide them into two opposing camps, whilst you the viewer (or reader in this case), sits and considers the possibilities before forgetting about it and heading off for a snack. In one corner we have the “Truly, writing without boundaries”, in the other, the “form or function brings you connection and understanding”. Two category names I just made up.
Let us first consider the possibility of “Truly, writing without boundaries”. To take a simplistic overview, this is simply about letting your mind open up, and see what comes out. Do not worry so much about what anyone thinks, or writing to an agenda. Just get going and see what your mind gives you. What will it cover? Will it be dark, or mystical? Will it be sexual, or perverse? Will it be something different to what you normally write? This last question is important, because writing without boundaries implies different from the norm. You may have been stuck writing 1st person fiction, then a revelation struck and you write 3rd person, in an entirely new (to you) genre.
So perhaps it refers to writing something different to what you normally do. Perhaps it means writing in a new way, pulling ideas you would not normally consider, or that you would, but using them in a different way. Perhaps you create a character, or a character and a scenario, and see where it takes you. In some respects this is comparable to writers who do little planning in terms of story structure. They just see where the story (or their mind), takes them. But do they always reach a destination? Well often yes, and often no. Even an open mind seems to have a closed section.
The alternative view is “form or function brings you connection and understanding”, i.e. no you cannot, boundaries always exist. I tend to subscribe more to this view myself. You see, there is something about language form, something about how for example, stories are structured, that gives it something. Primarily this is, that people can understand it. Our brains are quite structured, they like to process things in a structured manner. If we get something in a random fashion, it tends to slow us down, makes things harder to process or understand. I would relate this to psychedelic writings / songs. Whooooo, are they out there, you know, like way out there? Nope, mostly they are just crap. Most psychedelic stuff isn’t mind bending, it is just nonsense. It makes no sense. It is just meaningless drivel. Writing without boundaries is pretty much the same. There will always be some boundaries, be it in structure, or form, otherwise it brings next to no understanding.
Lets say you are writing a poem, and it covers some wild stuff, some deep seated desires, and some clever references. It may seem out there, especially if it is against your personality, or what you normally write, but it won’t relate to anyone unless you can give some frame of reference, or transition your ideas carefully. The best writing without boundaries is not actually without boundaries, but gives the impression that it is (so it may be cleverly hiding the form). For writing fiction, it is comparable to having an outline prior to writing. It helps to tell you if it works and whether it can be understood.
To conclude, I don’t think writing without boundaries is possible but it is relative to what you consider a boundary to be. If you have been writing under a strict structure, and suddenly you have more freedom to write with different language, or in different genres or contexts, then you may consider this to be a freeing up of boundaries. You may sit and write a poem, and let whatever pops into your mind land on the page. This too may be a freeing up of boundaries. But I would hazard a guess that underneath it, you keep some structure, so people can follow it and understand it. Boundaries, hmmm…
And with that said, all we need now is for some smart arse to wade in with “there are no boundaries other than those we create for ourselves”. To this I say, see above.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts on boundaries as it relates to your writing?
Lexicon word of the day: descry.