“Don’t try to teach me.”
When I meet someone who keeps trying to teach me something, my judgment gets twisted. They’re not wrong, but it turns my stomach. I have a hard time breaking the habit of trying to teach others without realizing it. When I’m faced with a situation, instead of accepting it for what it is, I try to organize it and make some sort of order out of it, and I try to give it some sort of meaning: “This is this, so do this, and that is that, so do that.
She doesn’t like to be told that she’s trying to teach, but when she writes, she feels like she has to be honest and teach something, like it’s not writing if she doesn’t teach. In Hagiya language class, when I read a piece of writing, I would immediately ask, ‘What is the topic of this piece?
Trust the reader to find the topic on their own
The more you don’t show your topic, the better. When you do, any event or object you present will speak for itself, and the person (reader) will be free to find it. You’ve probably heard the phrase “theme is everything,” but what does that mean? Let me explain with a few examples (you can just read the examples in this issue).
Whenever the lady downstairs is taken to the hospital.
Ji-hoon cries, “Mommy, mommy!
Ji-ho cries mommy, mommy.
But that day, Ji-hoon was crying mommy, mommy.
and Ji-ho cried, “Brother, brother, brother.
- Park Joon, ‘Yearly’
For me, a good piece of writing is one that shows a scene: the different names the Yeon-yeon brothers are called as they watch their mother being taken to the hospital. Does the theme of this piece (poem) immediately come to mind?
The author doesn’t directly state a theme in this poem; he simply records the scene he witnessed. As neighbors, they must have heard the sounds coming from the house down the street from time to time. The older brother calls the woman ‘mother’ and the younger brother calls her ‘mama.’ You can feel the difference between ‘mother’ and ‘mama.’ Even though they are younger, the older brother must have retained the dignity of the eldest and the younger brother the foolishness of the youngest.
But “that day” is different. The older sibling calls the younger sibling “mom.” The eldest sibling’s stoicism is gone, replaced by a childishness. The younger brother must have realized that his mother is at a life-and-death crossroads, and the ‘big brother’ cry is one of total dependence on his older brother, who is only one year older. When we are faced with a situation we can’t handle, we become children. ‘Mama’ is more of a cry than a title. ‘Big brother’ is also a cry of fear and confusion about what is to come: ‘Big brother, what are we going to do now?
I read that poem and wrote down what popped into my head, and I think that’s what a theme is. We think of a theme as “something clear that can be summarized in one sentence,” but maybe it’s more about waking up something that’s buried somewhere beneath the surface of the reader. Your topic should be something the reader has to find on their own, not just roll their eyes at, but something that’s buried in the back of their mind, like stepping into a dusty warehouse.
Your topic should be like hide-and-seek
Here’s another example: The following sentence (?) is the world’s shortest novel, written by an author named Augusto Monterosso.
When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.
(Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.)
What do you think, does it sound like a novel? There are only short, dry events in there. The protagonist wakes up and the dinosaur has been with him up until that moment. So the dinosaur must have been with him while he was asleep, or maybe even before that, though we don’t know when. Maybe it was trying to protect him, maybe it was trying to eat him, maybe it was trying to play with him when he woke up. All sorts of things go through your head. Imaginations that go on forever.
Because of how much fun this novel is, several artists have illustrated it. If you look at just a few of them, they all have a different feel to them메이저놀이터.
A scene from Augusto Monterosso’s novel, as interpreted by one illustrator.
A tribute to Monterosso by cartoonist FO. Image via https://www.gazeta.gt/
An illustrator’s interpretation of an Augusto Monterosso novel. ⓒNam Ki-yong https://www.sulki-min.com/
There is a book called . It is a prose book written by 52 poets about 52 objects (sister product: ). Poet Ham Min-bok wrote a short stanza about ‘clock’, and here’s one line.
I thought my father was going to die, so I called my brother. My father, lying on his back, asked me twice for the time. I asked him why he didn’t come. He said he was thirsty, so I opened the rice cooker, took out a heated bottle of vegetable meal, and gave it to him. After sitting up, he put the bottle down and fell counterclockwise. About ten minutes after he passed out, my brother came over and, strangely enough, the clock stopped. I haven’t eaten vegetable meal in five years, and to this day, when the clock stops, I have bad thoughts.
Are you getting the picture? I don’t talk about missing my father or resenting my brother; I stop at what happened. The topic should be like a game of hide-and-seek. Hide, hide, hide. Show me your hair.
To you who can’t catch a topic
Have a “pure” purpose for writing. Don’t make it your purpose to write about bragging or pity. Get to your truth. To write my story with authenticity and honesty. Writing to be yourself, not to be something else, not to be someone else.
Here’s a great example. I teach a “rigorous” course called The Recording Human, where students have to pick something, observe it, write 60 A4 pages, edit it properly, and publish it. A student who took it three years ago and got an F tried it again last semester, but this time she couldn’t decide on a topic until two months later. At first she said she was going to observe her mom, then she changed her mind about which