No worries about the delay, Betta. I’ve begun taking little breaks from Medium myself every couple days. These breaks help me to stay connected to the offline world and keeps me thinking semi-linear thoughts. Too much Medium and my thinking tends to fragment, which can sometimes make for an exciting poem but usually renders useless all other writing efforts.
I’m glad you reminded me of Conrad! You’ve inspired a somewhat lengthy response, for which I apologize. Please don’t feel you need to respond in kind. I hope that by sharing this, I may have returned the favor you showed in making the experience of writing and sharing my original piece so rewarding.
It makes sense that Conrad would’ve been the one to use the triangulation concept when discussing writing. First of all, he’d spent much of his youth captaining merchant shipping vessels carrying freight to and from the British East Indies. (Much of his better fiction derives from his experiences at sea). The term triangulation was also used to describe the ways sailors used two or more fixed points (land; the stars) to position themselves.
Second, from what I know of Conrad’s work, he liked to frame his stories and novels as tales told to listeners — among which group Conrad’s narrator character usually figured — by Marlow, a composite character Conrad built using the personalities, characteristics, and blues of several men he’d sailed with, along with some of his own predilections and fears and biases. He seemed to believe there was always some aspect of a man (not sure if know this, but Conrad didn’t write much about women; the masculine pronouns meant to reflect Conrad’s own bias here, not mine) you couldn’t get to, like a “shadow self” or a darker half which came through when the strictures of civilization fell away. In the same ways sailors found themselves while at sea, Conrad seemed to believe you had to triangulate the man, since so much of a man’s character remained hidden, even to the man himself. I think I may have been playing with this idea in this piece of mine without realizing it.
There was one other aspect of his theory of literature that still guides my own work today, and I hope you’ll permit me to share it, in hopes it may prove useful to you as well.
I remember reading one of Conrad’s introductions while studying modernist fiction as an undergraduate. In this, Conrad paints the scene of the writer or artist observing a laborer hoeing a row some ways in the distance. From this image Conrad derives his view that, like visual artists, fiction writers are obligated to engage a reader’s senses; it is through through the senses that writers reach the minds of readers. If a writer can make the reader feel the efforts and exertions of the laborer then s/he can make the reader see what it must be like to be the laborer, to live and work as he does, to value what such a man must value.
This helps me keep my writing grounded in the concrete details. The specifics. What a thing looks like, feels like, smells and tastes like. What it feels like to have to do this or that, fight or push or pull or lift or rethink a thing. If I get it right, I won’t have to do much explaining. I’ll have put the experience before the reader and can leave her to judge for herself what to make of it.
Which is, I guess, another kind of triangulation.
Thank you so much, again, for reminding me of Conrad, and for adding another layer to this story. I told Gail Boenning a week ago that I may need to work a bit more on this piece; you’ve helped me find a way to do just that.
Best to you.