writing

I don’t write not to be read, I never did. I suppose that’s a bit self-obsessed in a way; my desire has been to involve other people in my interests. Writing is not solely a lonely pursuit, it’s directed towards some goal that has a certain social potential. Sure, I write notes that are not meant to be read (not even by me, judging by the crappy hand-writing), but I usually write those as a preparation for writing something that I think I will publish, sooner or later. Oddly, though, most of what I write remains unpublished, but that’s not the intention with which I write.

Being read is addictive. You want someone to see those words you carefully (sometimes not so carefully, I admit) type, preferably you want someone to understand them, but that’s asking a lot. Changing people’s minds is not a goal, but to make people think something is.

If I knew I wouldn’t be read, I doubt I’d write another word. I don’t write for myself. I’m aware that some people write for themselves, that writing is satisfaction enough, even without being read. But I’m too greedy for that. Even when I’ve written badly — which I have, on numerous occasions –, I didn’t write only for myself.

I went to a school where the written word didn’t matter; it was insignificant. Children should learn in other ways — through imitation, through copying, through the spoken word, if words were involved at all –, and express themselves in other ways — preferably through unintellectual activities, like creating hundreds of identical wet-on-wet paintings. Writing about the kind of education I received is the reason I ended up being read. That was not part of the plan; it just happened that way.

I was supposed to write something else, and be read for other reasons, and of course I still do write other texts, all the time. But not being read is a frightening prospect, when you’ve got accustomed to it, even you’re read mostly for a specific reason. You want to keep that, cherish the attention. Limited as it is, it is still to be read. Which is something I can’t count on, were I to publish other types of texts. I toy with the idea. I think: maybe, for a months time, I should not mention the w-word. And it scares the hell out of me. Because, after all, I never wrote not to be read.

10 thoughts on “writing

  1. “..maybe, for a months time, I should not mention the w-word. And it scares the hell out of me”. Then look into Mr Dog´s eyes and tell him you are scared. He´ll have you back on track again in three secs dot pip by Shrewsbury Clock! (Alicia scared, never heard such a thing! Grumph..)

  2. Håller med. Att skriva för skrivbordslådan var aldrig en option. Dessutom var nog huvudambitionen att säga allt det som förtigits inom svensk antroposofi – för att detta osagda har stympat rörelsen. Alla tankar som tänks bakom den politiskt korrekta fasaden borde få mötas av andra i en öppen debatt. Inte för att så många svarar och debatterar på bloggen, men att de noterar dessa ocensurerade tankar räcker i sig. Att de ser en problematisering av antroposofin.

    Samma gäller andra ämnesområden. Det är fantastiskt att sitta i sin egna vrå och nå ut till världen.

  3. How about putting something up there with “Galenskap och ansvar”? I guess many of your friends would want to read it. Me included.

  4. Curt: the funny thing is, I’m not really scared about what people think, but not being read — that seems frightening! It just occurred to me yesterday, when I was walking, that that’s what’s holding me back.

    Johannes: ja, detta med att skriva för skrivbordslådan. Har aldrig begripit det.

    Det förvånar mig, mer generellt, att inte fler människor, då menar jag antroposofer främst, skriver om antroposofi. Den skulle bli mycket mer levande och intressant om fler människor faktiskt uttryckte sig mer personligt om den, framställde sina argument och åsikter, o s v.

    Tom: yes, that’s a good idea! And thanks!
    (Although I kind of have been assuming nobody had read that monster thing of an essay! Because it is an almost entirely different topic.)

  5. Alicia,

    I came across this quote about writing by former Waldorf High school writing teacher, Michael Ventura. Seems quite appropriate for your thread here.

    http://kelleyeskridge.com/other-things/the-talent-of-the-room/

    THE TALENT OF THE ROOM

    People who are young at writing — and this does not necessarily mean they’re young in years — ask me, now and again, if I can tell them something useful about the task. Task is my word, not theirs, and it may seem a harsh and formal word, but before writing is anything else it’s a task. Only gradually do you learn enough for it to become a craft. (As for whether writing becomes your art — that isn’t really up to you. The art can be there in the beginning, before you know a thing, or it may never be there no matter what you learn.)

    “The only thing you really need,” I tell these people, “is the talent of the room. Unless you have that, your other talents are worthless.”

    Writing is something you do alone in a room. Copy that sentence and put it on your wall because there’s no way to exaggerate or overemphasize this fact. It’s the most important thing to remember if you want to be a writer. Writing is something you do alone in a room.

    Before any issues of style, content or form can be addressed, the fundamental questions are: How long can you stay in that room? How many hours a day? How do you behave in that room? How often can you go back to it? How much fear (and, for that matter, how much elation) can you endure by yourself? How many years — how many years — can you remain alone in a room?”

  6. Alicia, jag instämmer med Johannes här ovan, jag har själv alltid saknat ett medium (höhö) där bl a antiska saker debatteras hit och dit, då inte två har samma uppfattning i d e t a l j om ditten eller datten eller annat. Därför är kiosken ett för mig underbart vattenhål, där riktig Sanctus Spiritus Fortis serveras…

    Hollywood Tom, thanks for the link, good stuff. He just forgot to quote, erm–I think it was Thackeray or one of the older guys; he answered thus to a question of how to be a good writer: “Have something to say!” (which, thank Heavens, does not apply to our noble hostess in the Kiosk, who not only has a lot to say, but says it well, at that..unlike quite a few modern scribblers who actually have nothing to say, but still insist on saying it).

  7. Thanks to all.

    I think Thackeray was onto something. I mean, that is the difficult thing: to have something to say AND to say it well. Sometimes, only one of these aspects is present. Of course, you only know it once you’ve started to write — and discover whether one or both (or, in lucky cases, none) aspect is lacking.

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