Monday, 7 August 2017

Writing and Difference? How about Reading and Similarity?

Writing is forever opening. It always attempts to point at whatever it isn't. Each word is a signifier, a sign pointing towards a something other than itself, a relativistic network whose origins lie in speech, in the original experiential act, in something prior even to this; at the root of being human. It nevertheless surpasses it origins. To speak with Derrida, it creates a rupture within being itself; and yet, immediately recovers itself.

Regardless of the phenomenology of writing, the relationship between the production of writing - a horrible term; perhaps I should say creation? Or let's leave the words to designate their own origin - and the writer is an interesting one. One such point of interest is the factors governing the impetus to write, versus the impetus to silence, or simply the lack of will to write, to speak, to say anything. Is it because it is an effort? Naturally; as all efforts are capable of being either neglected or slacked off as they pass down the hierarchy of priorities we assign to our choices and actions. Time spent doing one thing is time not spent doing something else. Standard life issues such as tiredness, too much work, lack of coherent quiet time to create a space (mainly in a psychological rather than physical sense; though I suppose for many writers they require specific physical/environmental conditions too; I say this with irony as I type this in my untidy and messy room, with my Chromebook across my lap as I lie back on the bed, a place I spend most of my time when I'm not at work or out running or cycling) conducive to create are all major factors. But I'm principally concerned, here, with what are more the internal factors.

Certainly, reading and writing exist in a fiercely reciprocal tension; the urge to write becomes more insistent the more one reads. I should like to think this is generally true amongst most writers. I should empathise I use the word 'writers' in its most generous and egalitarian sense: a writer is simply any human being who willing writes outside of the strict dictum's of academic or work necessity. To include these pursuits would render the term so wide as to neutralise it of any real meaning since it would end up including almost every human who has at some point passed through any remotely developed education system. So, yes, a writer is one who writes, regardless of form, content or quality; someone who wishes to either communicate or explore some concept, feeling, or expression of the human experience through words. When divorced from any economic imperative, such that it is purely a mode of creative expression (should it somehow end up being monetised, a mere bonus), it reflects back as an innately human concern. Writers write, then stop. Bloggers blog, then stop. Is it because they have said all that they wanted to say? But few such writings have such a teleological endgame. Writing is almost never an endpoint, but rather an eternal beginning (I think here of Derrida once more). Even the mundane aspects mentioned above (time constraints, situation, etc.) do not serve as a particularly satisfactory explanation. Rather, I think it is to to with the tension mentioned above.

Tension. Writing almost becomes a necessity if one becomes prolific in one's reading: prolific we can define here as a relative proportion of the allocation of one's free time versus other activities. (To give an example, albeit extreme; someone who reads for 30 minutes per day could be said to be prolific, in a sense, if they have a job that entails 16 hour days and those 30 minutes are their sum total of free time when they're not trapped in the tyranny of economic survival and they willingly deprive themselves of sleep in order to read something, anything). This close relationship with reading is simply because - and simple is the operative word - no one reads entirely passively. As a reader, the writer already exists in an original and originary relationship with the author of the text. The words are not simply 'consumed'; they are rewritten in an interpretation that constitutes the envelopment of reading. To read is to put oneself in communion with the author, and to write between the lines with every sentence read. Every time you read a book you are in effect writing it too. No matter how brilliant the author, or how inferior your own (perceived) writing skills are. No matter. You're still writing it, in the script of your own life, your own unique sense of the human, the private space that only you have access to, and you alone.

I am not sure other mediums of art have quite the same power to both access and reverberate with our deepest sense of being. And as alluded to, there is a sense that the words arise beyond or are otherwise than being (Levinas), through the rupture (Derrida); but I will not dwell on that here. Television and film seem like a more distant, passive, impersonal medium to me. This is not to lapse into a 'snobbery of erudition'. Rather just to describe the subjective experience. They are more impersonal, no matter the realism and force, since I am not employed as a writer in the screenplay of a film to anywhere near the same extent as when I read a book. Everything is made more explicit, so the free interplay of the imagination is somewhat lessened. Perhaps this is because commercial constraints (words are cheap, being almost free to produce; how ironic they're our most precious commodity too, in the true sense of that word) ensure that films cannot take such dramatic risks of abstraction. The alienation of a text is simply one person's rejected manuscript or ignored blog post, to descend into the vulgarities of the purely economic world we live in. The cost is only borne by the frustrated individual; but they probably would have written it anyway. The $100 million dollar film (or even £5000 low budget television episode) is another matter. They are also collective enterprises. By definition, generally one person cannot simultaneously operate the camera, star as the principal actor in one's own screenplay. Unless one includes video blogging, or 'vlogging'. Or an extremely specific and unusual form of film or one-person docu-drama (no doubt they do exist). In any case, generally it is a collective effort, and one usually involving quite a large number of people. This means that it both suffers and gains from the uniformity of collective rationality - however avantgarde. Still, I maintain that thus far nothing has managed to achieve quite the same degree of personal involvement, access to our most deep and private sphere of being as reading, in our participative act of reader-writers.

Music seems much closer. At the limits of abstraction it can certainly stake equal ownership with poetry. It still feels slightly more passive to me though. An author guides a reader and toys with their emotions, or plays with their intellect. So in this sense the musician and the author are identical. Does the musician who passively listens to other music create new music in their listening in the same way that the reader 'writes' in-between the very words that they read? Does listening already contain the precondition of musing (to borrow a pun)? I haven't really written much music (or even attempted to do so), so I cannot say. A different tension exists for words. Words are capable of both incredible concreteness and incredible plasticity depending on their employment (in each an every case this dual-moment is also always residual in every individual word). Music is always confined to a more abstract sphere. Excluding singing and vocals, which in their deployment of words as speech effectively mean that music becomes a form of mixed media, so starts to take on some of the properties of reading.

Anyway, my objective was not really an analysis of the comparative aesthetics of different forms of art and their modes of communication. It was to get back to the strange dilemma whereby the writer who writes, suddenly stops writing. The creative impulse gets stymied.

The source and return is the tension. To write, one must read. The more one reads, paradoxically, though, the more one is afraid of the nudity of one's own words. Have we got anything new to say? Are are words mere detritus to be added to a superabundance of everything else that is out there, everything that has been said in a thousand different ways before?

The terror of originality. No matter. Be unoriginal. The act of issuance is an operation that evokes an affective response within the deepest aspect of your being. Call it egotism, call it narcissism. Or call it the greatest generosity you can give. The best writing is always written for oneself, because it is the authenticity of the words to the inner space of the human that make them so vital, especially in this age of endlessly repeated representation and image; the surface. Writing for an audience does not mean that one is not writing for oneself. Far from it. They are one and the same.

The biggest violence, then, is the violence of silence. Words depend on this infinity as the backdrop upon which their inscriptions derive meaning. Silence, the blank sheet of paper, in its perfection is a virgin that must be despoiled through an act of courage that nevertheless already contains regret as its own moment. You have to start with saying something that probably seems trite, wasted, or irrelevant before you have something of value. Almost any good writer negates themselves more than anyone else. Even valueless writing has a peculiar value, a quality that would be difficult to ascribe, to, say, most daytime television. The depredation of silence gets weakened with each successive act of writing. In this sense, writing is no different from exercise. Effective exercise requires a methodical training regime of regularity, with just the right balance of rest and effort. The same could surely be said of writing. Reading becomes the 'active recovery' of writing. With exercise, it is only in rest and recuperation that you actually get stronger and fitter. Similarly words can only arise from the lived experience of everyday life, and intellectual reflection.

Perhaps the silence is the chrysalis. People who have a strong wish to write feel it as an almost unbearable urge, even though, paradoxically they may go silent for years, or even an entire lifetime. Perhaps everyone doesn't have a book in them. But we all have words, and at least some of those are worth letting out.

Meanwhile, those who stop reading, have already stopped writing. The urge to write will re-appear as soon as the reading resumes and reaches a certain critical mass; the inverse is also true.

I suppose these are all fairly standard mandates in most published books on writing. Even if I'm merely replicating them, I do so from own personal perspective and in my own words - and in the end, that is all one can ever really ask from life in any venture.

The blog always has the continual tension of change and stasis. Those diligent bloggers, if there are any left in this sunset of blogging, manage to create a smooth narrative through their frequency of new posts. For the rest - probably most of us - who write a-periodically, on and off, there is a necessary discontinuity. One never writes from the same vantage point, as the same person, many months, and especially if it is years, later. One has already moved on. Should one start a fresh blog? A clean sheet? The new book? But perhaps adding a new post to an old blog is ultimately no different from the metaphysical act of adding another sentence to the written paragraph. Writing already contains its own movement, difference within the same, so perhaps one should embrace it. Style, content, whatever change; no matter. We reinvent ourselves continually, but this always occurs on the basis of that which remains continuous within ourselves. In the end, no matter how many published books an author has, they are ultimately the same text, no matter how different.

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