Creating in Life
———The Creation of A Novel
The winter of 2004, I finished the last word of the novel --A Leopard in Iron in 201 dormitory of Lu Xu School of Arts. At that time, I had a strange feeling that I was dizzy and couldn’t walk steadily. The feeling was as if a person were twisted with something to form a special steadiness. Suddenly, there was not any connection between them and the steadiness disappeared.
I just have to admit that I had been twisted with the thing back and forth for 17 years on the novel from conception, formulation of outline, revisal to the publishing by People’s Literature Publishing House.
To be frank, what a writer would write down is a destiny, while a genuine novel is really a decision of causality that with thick fate.
Therefore, I have a love-hate feeling in the first 400,000 words of the A Leopard in Iron.
When I was thirty years old, an elder writer who only engages in writing novels told me that a novel should be a significant step in a writer’s writing career. However, I wrote nothing but novelettes at that time as I had strong interest in it only.
The elder writer had already written several novels, which makes me admire. Furthermore, he could write two or three novels at the same time, and those novels were finished at the same time. Hence, a novel to him is like a short story, or a novella to me. Because of the elder writer, I had a desire to write a novel. To some extent, what attracts me is not the sense of achievement arising from the completion of a novel, but the creation of a great thing. I more enjoy experiencing a great thing formed because of me which is irresistible to me.
At that time, I have published a certain number of novelettes and collections. According to those masters, the most difficult is to write short story as perfection is needed as it is short and strained. While what needed in novel is a reasonable story only as deep water can hide everything. As far as I am concerned, such a situation would be faced by a writer who starts from writing novel.
但如果这个作家是从写短篇小说或者中篇小说开始的,那么在接下来的长篇小说创作中,他就不可能不受已然形成的很多东西的影响,诸如语言风格、创作态度、艺术个性等的影响。一个作家的成长,实际上是一种模式的形成,不管这种模式成不成熟,面对一种新的体例,都是一种挑战。它意味着作为创作主体的很多东西将要解散并面临选择,而按照新的要求重新进行组合。However, if the writer starts his writing career from writing a short story or novella, he would be affected by formed habits like language style, writing-attitude and artistic personality unavoidably when he writes novel. The growth of a writer rightly is the formation of a pattern. Whether the pattern is mature or not, it would be a challenge in face of the new style which means that the creating subject has to dissolve and recombine many things in accordance with the new requirements in face of choice.
Obviously, my problem does not lie in short story, or novella and novel.
The problem I met is the novel itself.
不管当下人们怎么看一个作家的价值,但那时候,我觉得一个作家是应该有一种使命意识的。正是因为这样,我在我的创作活动中始终不知道“玩”文学的滋味;甚至在对材料的驾驭上,也不可能像一些聪明的作家那样扬长避短、驾轻就熟,可以一鼓作气地写出若干系列的东西来。No matter how people view the value of a writer, at that time, I believed a writer should have an awareness of his mission. For this brief, I have no idea of “playing” literature during the process of creating. What’s more, as for the controlling of materials, I cannot develop the strong points and avoid the weak points easily, and write a series of things at a dash like those smart writers.
A literature should be the product of human spirit and emotions, and a writer should be the person to excavate and discover human spirit and emotions, and to refine and sublimate them according to the development of the times. Hence, the modern life is unavoidable when I felt strong interest in historical culture and folk literature,and this could not be generalized by the writer’s bravery or timidity.
Actually, a responsible writer would not get rid of the times he is in to create something that does not exist, or indulge in personal feelings to groan and moan to those simplified emotions, or deduce those things which have been studied by the predecessors for many times foolishly. In the era of consumerism, literature has become a passive doll and a pastime which is a tragedy to a country and a nation.
时间已经是世纪末,而且是千年之尾,又一个新千年新世纪即将到来。想到这一点,我有一种莫名的豪气。一九八七年盛夏,我顶着烈日,历时一个多月,徒步三百多公里,全程考察芙蓉江。Time has been the end of the century and the end of the Millennium, while another new millennium is coming. I have a sense of pride as it comes to this. Midsummer in 1987, I exposed to the scorching sun and walked more than 300 kilometers for one month to investigate Furong River.
Furong River originates from Daloushan Vein, gets cross five counties in northern Guizhou. Finally, it injects into Wujiang through Wulong and Pengshui county of Chongqing.
Furong river basin is an important settlement of Chinese minority Gelao that is thought as the base camp of Gelao nationality by educational circles. The careful investigation of the mother river inspired me to write my novel.
I decided to write this novel into polyphony with all my intelligence and energy to give people a feel of countless voices so that the novel is endowed with the history and time. It is not only a poetic philosophy but also a folk song; it is not only misery and confused but also hopeful and courageous.
I named the novel as A Leopard in Iron as the basic framework is formulated. I was confused when my friend asked me the theme of the novel as they know I was writing. I told them carefully that it is an open theme of rural after careful considerations.
I had never thought I designed a trap for myself and jumped in it.
As is known to all, the organization of a novel relies on thinking in image which originates in a person’s direct or indirect experience. In the end of the 1980s, the rural economic system reform which began with the household contract responsibility system made a remarkable achievement. The focus of the reform was shifting to the urban economic system.
We lived in an era filled with agitation and hope when the old contradictions were endless and the contemporary contradictions were complicated. During that time, what my creation and I met with was a brand new thing. My experiences as well as a certain part of my knowledge failed to work in a sudden.
They became so pallid and old to me to make me feel perplexed and trampled. Hence, I did not know how to continue the story of the novel. Therefore, I really regretted why I chose to write modern life into a novel.
A local dialect could describe the condition of my writing at that time that is “an apprentice is asked to save whiskers when he just learns shaved hair.” However, I never thought to give up as I believed in my conception and not give in which made me into a dilemma situation.
I just have to stop writing after finishing five chapters in the second half of 1989.
I knew clearly that I was waiting a new accumulation, the supply of life as well as new filtration and feelings.
In August of 1990, I was moved from the Federation of Zheng’an Country to Zunyi. The Federation of Zunyi did not have professional writers, and I was responsible for editing Zunyi literature and Art. I was a new there, so I worked for eight hours a day honestly as I was sorry to put forward requirement.
At that time, all contributions were handwritten by authors as there was no computer. Those good manuscripts were written on formal paper, while those bad ones were wrote on typing paper. Editor shall take these manuscripts seriously as hard work has been put into by those authors. Even not all manuscripts have to be reviewed, we still have to them well, and we had to write letters to those authors who wrote the article well.
The reviewing of too many manuscripts during the day makes me feel dizzy, so that a physiological reaction would arouse as I see the manuscript, so I always wanted to keep away from the desk as I came back home. Under such a situation, it is really hard to catch the feeling of writing a novel.
Therefore, only novella and short stories could be written down occasionally. In addition, an unfinished novel on the desk would make you feel illusory and inexplicable indebtedness. Hence, even I have done many works and published many writings continuously, I still felt empty all the time.
In 1993, concerned by Long Zhiyi who was a deputy secretary of the CPC Guizhou Provincial Committee and Minister of organization, I went to Meitan to experience life as deputy county magistrate.
Zhiyi was a writer, he knew my confusion during an accidental conversation between us, and thought I was been to Zunyi too early. Meitan County is one of the national rural reform pilot counties which represent the development direction of rural in the future to a certain extent. In my opinion, Zhiyi has his own idea to send me to such a county to work.
The county magistrate asked my opinion when he assigned me to be responsible for city building. I asked to manage rural enterprises without any reflections as it is an important bridge to make me know the transformation of farming as well as the thoughts of farmer. I know very well that the moribund novel can continue again.
Four years have been pasting since I worked in Meitan. With the marginalization of the literature, some kind leaders asked me to engage in politics rather than back to the federation of literary and art. To be honest, I was attracted by the suggestion at that time, but I knew that I could not do two things at a time. It is so embarrassed if I gave up literature like this.
And it was impossible for me to do another thing as the novel has not been finished. Therefore, I returned to federation. It was not only a challenge for me but also a test for my personality to finish this novel.
A writer takes readers, society and era as the object when he designs his writing, actually a promise to the reader, society and era has been made. Only have I finished the novel that I can free from it, because I am serious with it. To finish this novel seems to be the most important thing in my life.
I was supported by Guizhou Writer Association in 1997, and I forced myself to the table by asking for a leave for creation from the former unit by "Contract Writing". In order to revise conveniently, I learned computer skills, and finished transforming from handwriting to keyboarding.
I put more than 10 thousand words into the computer, and organized them two times to edit those differences in language due to large writing span. I was activated by the passion brought by the new writing tool, and found the feeling to continue my writing. I believed I can finish this novel one day as long as I kept writing.
In the period of time, I read and revised those manuscripts again and again that and I was moved by the words, and did not believe I had written them. This strange feeling strengthens my confidence to finish the novel and enhance my decision to write the novel.
It is no doubt that a good working needs careful reflections. Rough dealing of a good material is a horrible waste to writer. Now, I treat writing as a kind of life which is calm and comfortable. It is until now that I come up with the idea to write something like “milestone”. I became relaxed with such an attitude.
Therefore, I prepared a notebook for the novel, on which I took down what I felt or details of the novel, so that I could be sensitive all the time. Meanwhile, when I want to write short story, I can get rid of the novel and changed the way of expression to keep an enthusiastic.
Moreover, I would take very passage even a tendentious essay seriously to keep up with the pace of life and times. In this way, even an undisciplined person like me has created a collection.
In 2002, the novel which has confused me for several years needs an ending only. But I fell into confusion again that I did not know how to arrange the destiny of the two protagonists. And the unit has begun to inform me to work because my leave for creation has ran out.
I felt shy to extend my leave for creation of novel, and it is not necessary. Thirteen years have passed, so I can still wait a few more years as ever. Moreover, I have made up my mind not to write such a long novel like this again. Hence, I just need to finish this novel only. It is to be completed no matter how upset and hardship it was.
I am not going to talk about the importance of a good ending is an important part to a novel, so I do not introduce more with it. In a word, I will wait until I really figured it out.
Gogol burned all novels he completed, however, I could not do that as I do not have that realm. I would prefer through waiting to solve my problems through waiting. And I am confident in this.
In the autumn of 2004, I had a chance to Lu Xu School of Arts to receive the full-time study for half a year. Here I only needed to attend lectures for three half days a week, and the rest time could be managed by myself.
One day, when I opened the notebook and saw the ballad—love and hate, I knew how to write the end of the novel in a sudden. I knew the ballad from a Chinese-American who came to China to look for ancestors.
By the way, I wrote it on the notebook for it is interesting at that time. I never expected that chance would be brought by long waiting, and the ballad worked.
As the first snow came in Beijing, I completed the printing and bounding of the manuscript with 400,000 thousand words, and handed it to Mr. Li Jianjun, my tutor.
I felt lucky that the editor of People's Literature Publishing House – Mr. Li Jianjun could acknowledge A Leopard in Iron in the era when the book of "Wolf Series" was popular.
I wrote down the whole process of writing here, and I defined it as a lesson, actually, it has no directly relation with literary creation, but a special life experience.