Saturday, March 29, 2014

Turning Point: Why Writers Write

Over the last three years I have (in the public sphere) reflected upon nearly every human emotion associated with happiness and well-being, with the result that I have met and befriended many new people, gradually emancipating my thoughts toward paradigms that put the collective on an equal footing with the individual. It might be thought that a solitary activity such as writing would be less affected by the thoughts of the collective, but in taking my writing public, a new principle of meaning, namely the global collective, has risen within the links of the thousand or so posts penned by one individual. 

In fact, this experience has resulted in my reorganizing my thoughts from the top down, while at the same time opening up new dimensions in them. This series is devoted to writing as an educational form of art and will explore that which opens 'from within' while doing so. The intimate aspects of knowing oneself combine in areas that are, each in their own way, the marking of a turning point of the individual toward the collective. 

Living in the Age of the Second Humanism 

Before going down the rabbit hole, I'd like to make two preliminary remarks. They are necessary, in my view, if I am to avoid creating the conciliatory impression that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, which is of course largely untrue: as for happiness, even if we rate it as the highest of all, happiness raises at least as many problems as it solves, if not more. 

Happiness raises as many questions as it solves 

Happiness, as I have written many times over, is what drives my writing and writing is the main cause of my frustration with writing. Furthermore, and I would emphasize this too, the happiness I derive from my writing is easily transformed into its opposite, unhappiness. In other words, I find tremendous happiness in writing ~ writing articles, writing letters, writing short stories, writing poetry, writing technical bulletins, writing manuals, writing lesson plans, and so forth ~ but tremendous unhappiness in the act of editing, formatting, and publishing traditional hardbound books. The freedom associated with self-expression appeals to me, while the contrived nature of work, i.e., the business of writing, disinterests me. 

Invoking self-expression as the new principle for the writer is no reason for relapsing into naivety and deciding that activities allowing for this ease of expression make everything wonderful and easy. In many respects, blogging and similar paradigms associated with modern publication makes the lives of writers much more complicated, and in the pedagogic domain this complexity is perhaps becoming more and more evident. Here writing plays a role that is at once essential, almost vital, in terms of contributing to the collective knowledge of the world and making that knowledge easily accessible, but it is also tremendously disruptive, less "good books" will be published as a result. In short, instant publishing, such as blogging, is as much the difficulty as it is the solution. 

From Blogging to Publishing Books

My second remark is this: it is crucial, when discussing these questions, to draw a clear distinction that is, at best, ambiguous: that between blogging and publishing. In principle, blogging is the business of publishing in a digital format. "Blogging" dates back to the 1990s and is an abbreviation of the word "Weblog," a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, or, in the case of educational blogs or commercial blogs, disseminates information. A blog is also the digital meeting place where writers and readers can engage. Publishing, on the other hand, is the task, occupation, business, or activity of preparing and issuing books, journals, and other material for sale. It is aimed at readers who select the book according to their personal or professional interests. If a book is successful in terms of sales, it can also serve as the catalyst that brings writers and readers together, though the space is not interactive in the same way as can be a blog. 

While not all published authors blog, many bloggers do publish books. The two, combined, can offer a writer a space for self-expression as well as a career, assuming they sell enough books to support their lifestyle. It can of course happen that bloggers take over the responsibility of the publishing activities, opting for self-publishing instead of seeking out a traditional book publisher, but this makes no change to the principle at stake: blogging and publishing imply different types of relation between the writers who write for self-expression and the writers who write in order to engage in the business of publishing books. Of course, the problems of blogging and of publishing respectfully are closely linked, and we must not forget that blogging is publishing, according to the new paradigm of modern publishing. Sometimes they overlap, with bloggers occasionally publishing, and vice versa - but this does not mean they are the same. The principle difference is that blogging offers the writer and reader a digital meeting place where they can engage. The tipping point that inclines one toward blogging or publishing can be perceived as a social one. Whatever the personal inclination to write, the inclination to engage and share in real time can often times lead a writer to blogging, whereas the inclination toward economy leads writers toward traditional publication, which includes self-publication.  

Most of the problems I encounter in writing stem from the confusion between these two registers, or, to put it more clearly: writing suffers greatly if a writer's end result is misunderstood before they start writing. The social mores associated with writing dictate that a writer must publish traditionally if they are to be considered a professional writer. This is a defective start to the writing process. This defect is largely linked to the rise of an excessively sentimental love of artefacts so intense that it destroys the spirit of writing, the inclination that leads one to express oneself in written form. Hence it is obvious that writing, when compared only to publishing traditional books, is sometimes a problem rather than a solution. 

Let's see why.

(To be continued)

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