Thursday, April 3, 2014

Turning Point, Part V: Why Writers Write

Continued from:
Turning Point,
Turning Point, Part II
Turning Point, Part III
Turning Point, Part IV

The Internet has considerably enriched and diversified our relationship with writing, and this has opened the way we deliver words to the world 

The way in which we write today has changed in directions that involve not so much the traditional limits our predecessors imposed on writing but the positive development of its potential. This is clear in the wider range of ways we write, in how we share those writings, and the many forms writing can take: from blogs and "tweets" to ezines and "pins".

Until the Internet, we treated writing as a preliminary to knowledge, in other words, what information the elite thought should be shared with the general populace. This is why I have taken into consideration the question of blogging, or better put: virtual publishing; if not negatively, at least mainly from the point of view of traditional writing elitism. Indeed, our societies have become hyper-consumers of information. There is a real risk of future writers becoming constantly tempted, irrespective of their familiarity with or ability to produce quality writing, to become boundlessly desirous for more rather than better, for novelties and page views, rather than masterful production. Instant publishing offers a sort of deceptive thrill, or even an addictive buzz, in that it allows writers to publish and re-publish, over and over again, in a restless pursuit. Each day, we are literally inundated with online articles of which a considerable number will be lost within seconds in some corner of the Internet, already cached or abandoned.

Here, too, I don't believe in breaking away from the marvels of the Internet in some pretentious, snooty way. To cut writers off from the Internet in favor of old-fashioned writing and publishing paradigms, only confines them within the narrow scope of traditional writing, living artificially on the margins of contemporary life. It is difficult to imagine a worse way of writing in the modern age. We need other means of navigating the online and offline world to develop a richer public writing life that speaks to the vastness of the inner life while not compromising quality writing.

So, if we are to raise writing above the sphere of mere production, we need to inculcate in ourselves the feeling that there are "orders of writing" and that they are not all equally valuable. Writing is enjoyable, of course, but we need as it were to prove to ourselves, in our craft and not just our words, that we can do better. I realize that this is very difficult at present, and that perhaps I am not the writer to expound on this given my own disdain for editing and challenges with traditional publishing, but the stories I can tell Readers when I don't have to worry about traditional formatting and the like far surpass the stories I would share if I had to invest all my time editing and worrying about perfection in my writing.

Whether I am rewriting fairy tales, creating fanciful tales of my own making, or twisting, for my own arcane pleasure, books into unrecognizable garb, I find virtual writing and instantaneous publication far more entertaining, as a writer, than following the purveyors of stodgy scribble down the pedagogic rabbit hole. I want to give my writing a dimension of culture that is - forgive me for saying so - as often as I can the complete converse of what is usually being written by writers. I don't want to write pop songs, nor avant-garde garb, nor internationally recognized contemporary fair, nor even a monumental novel. I just want to write and see where my own writing can lead without scripting its journey ahead of its becoming. I want gravitational penmanship to pull and tug at my words in directions never before recorded, registered, or inscribed. I want to communicate, to correspond, to stay in touch, to keep in contact, and to drop the world a line from every conceivable direction of wherever my metaphorical pen takes me.

Before beginning this blog nearly three years ago this April 17th, my experience with writing was primarily focused on commercial writing (to help market products our company launched) and in technical writing (creating training manuals, forms, policies and procedures). But my true passion lies in writing about other, more fascinating subjects, such as mythological tales that speak to our interests in life, love, death, our relation to the cosmos, justice, passion, and extraordinary adventures, I am particularly fond of the latter of these subjects.

I want to write stories from all corners of where human is, and where it is headed. Stories full of suspense and excitement and that make wonderful topics of conversation. I am a storyteller. I am one of those people who naturally entertains their friends and family with a multitude of stories and anecdotes that incite further or deeper conversation to follow. I am naturally predisposed toward philosophical inquiry. My questions run deep and far, and more often than not, run away with my thoughts; in fact, they eloped years ago.

Growing up, I told my younger brother stories until either he or I feel asleep. I never knew what the story was going to be about, which made the act of storytelling all the more delightful. The words just magically came to me and we both went along on the journey. As the years went by, I became more skilled in choosing my words, which greatly enhanced the imagery associated with my adventurous tales, but never did I script out my stories. I just let them flow. This is perhaps key to understanding my love of instantaneous publishing associated with blogging. My ability to kick back with laptop on my desk or lap, as it so happens to be positioned right this moment, next to a warm fireplace, sipping my early morning beverage whilst ruminating on the subject at hand is, from my perspective, a skill different from planning out a writing project ahead of time. Between this paragraph and the next, I do not know what words will follow. Yet, when there is coherency between the paragraphs, or when they follow a specific order, in terms of building up toward a climax - I tend to end on high notes - I find myself pleased and take it as a sign of an orderly mind or, at the very least, a skilled mind indicative of years of educational brainwashing.

Irrespective of my own personal inclinations toward writing, when a writer can merely sit before a computer screen and instantly share stories with Readers, there appears to be a transitional occurrence: an everyday exchange. This everyday exchange in writing is what makes modern writing so unique. It is less scripted, more spontaneous. Similar in nature to storytelling, blogging (or instantaneous virtual writing) is intriguing. Rather than degrading blogging as being a "lesser form" of writing, it becomes instead a blank canvas: Steven Pinker's "Blank Slate", if you will, that allows a writer to simply "write" without worry about editing, about formatting, about page numbers and indexes, about book covers, and marketing paradigms, about number of books sold, and profits or losses from the whole enterprise.

I'm not saying that we should abandon traditional publishing, on the contrary, but blogging is akin to taking our children to another corner of the globe to instill within them the idea that there is more to life than what they experience at school, on television, or online. I am not suggesting we deprive them of the mass consumption associated with life in first world nations; I am advocating that we lead them toward a higher world. A world where culture is not understood as a product of consumption or of constant innovation and upgrades, but as a place of great works of art insofar as what nature and different mindsets can offer.

In this respect, I see blogging as a type of journey that takes a writer down a dirt road, off toward a new horizon. What we see while we're there is our own and largely indicative of the landscape, within and outside ourselves, but it is away from the standard platform upon which most writers write, and this, at least for me, is of value.

Blogging is the souvenir the writer brings back home. Blog posts are the snapshots the writer takes along their voyage, the receptacle in which they pack the thoughts they had while in a space independent of their daily life concerns (in this case, with the concerns associated with traditional publishing). Once the writer returns from this voyage, if they return, they have plenty of material with which to begin their magnum opus, should they decide to write one. Of course, rather than material for a great novel, the writer may instead find reason for leaving off on another adventure, writing as a way of capturing the journey much like how individuals take photos to record their vacations and explorations. The line of demarcation between staying home to write the world's next best novel and heading out on one of many adventures awaiting any of us might be more associated with that tour de force that leads some individuals out on extraordinary adventures of their own making rather than staying home to write about the adventures they imagine (or perhaps already had).

In this sense, writing in a blog suits the lifestyle of an adventurer who just so happens to have an inner compulsion to write, whereas writing books fulfills other needs and desires. The question of which is right for the writer is as much a matter of taste and lifestyle as it is a matter associated with orders of writing.

Belshazzar, the last King of Babylon, is famous for holding an banquet at which a disembodied hand wrote four words on the wall of his palace. Unable to understand what the words meant, he called for the prophet Daniel, who told him that the Babylonian kingdom was coming to an end. That night the Persian army entered the city of Babylon and Belshazzar was killed.

Like with Balshazzar, instantaneous writing found in blogging and other such virtual writing platforms represents the global version of writing on Belshazzar's wall - literally. What people share in their blogs, the matters about which they "tweet", the thoughts they share in their status updates, which post to their walls, are all indicative of a changing paradigm in which the masses are now writing. Writing is no longer the exclusive domain of the professional author. The Internet has changed and will continue to change how we view writing for generations to come. What comes of it all, we are just now exploring.

Exploration is the essence from which this blog arose. Personally I find existence to be the funniest subject of all, which is why I incline toward more humorous expressions of self. Ultimately, though, this platform serves as a receptacle in which my posts become literary snapshots of my thoughts, random or otherwise. Whether these posts are straightforward and can be taken literally, or are encoded in some arcane language for a specific audience, is for the Reader to decipher or wonder about. Irrespective, I hope the thoughts I capture here are entertaining, and that by being entertained, Readers might think deeper about what which entertains us all ... and perhaps, just perhaps, undertake a literary journey of their own.

You do not have to publish books to enjoy writing. That's the beauty of modern technology, and the opportunity that comes along with it.

Belshazzar, the last King of Babylon, depicted here in a painting by Rembrandt, was killed after he failed to read the writing on the wall.

No comments: