I read a post a (random time – to protect the victim of this rant) ago which talked about how the blogger only wrote during ‘inspired’ times. I replied light-heartedly that this must be exhausting, to have to be in this ‘burning’ state whenever writing. Most writers learn some techniques and methods to enable them to write even when the fire isn’t under them, so to speak.
Their response surprised and saddened me and I replied again at length, but I wanted to bring that rant here too.
They responded by saying “I never make any conscious efforts when it comes to improving my writing skills – I just read or write as much as I can.”
At first this might seem ok – they read and write a lot, which is enough, yes? But for me it wasn’t enough.
What if I had the same attitude while a musician? I could simply watch guitarists play all day without ever reading a score or a book on technique, never learning a chord and then consider myself a musician. If I were to pick up a guitar and just bash it against my head I’m sure I could make interesting noises, but to play in a way which others might wish to hear, or at least could understand, I should learn some chords. (okay, so there’s a lot of people who could happily watch me smash myself over the head with a guitar for many hours, but that’s not the point…)
Granted there’s no need to learn scales and theory if you just want to busk some pop hits – but some structure is required, some learning, some technique.
The difference with writing is that language is not just a ‘nice ability to have’, but our primary expression of self, and it’s reflexive; the more ways to use language you learn, the more you can express, the more you can be. George Orwell’s 1984 is a book which acknowledges this importance of language upon freedom of self – with Big Brothers Newspeak being designed to limit thought and thus the possibility of action. Learning more about language literally makes you more of a person, enables you to have deeper and more complex experiences.
Just imagine having no words at all for anger, or love, or happy. How could you express on your blog ‘happy’, without the word ‘happy’, or ‘delighted’, or ‘pleased’ etc? So you could not share ‘happy’ as an experience.
What if you only knew ‘happy’ – can you imagine. I went on holiday which made me happy. We bought ice-cream and I was happy. The fair-ground was a happy place and riding the wheel made me happy. I’m happy to write to you and hope you’re happy. Many happy returns.
Vomit with tedium.
Since sharing is a necessary element of experience (we are social selves – our lives only have meaning in our sharing of selves) – an inability to share is a restriction of our ability to experience (this is shown in detail in a fascinating book by Paul John Eakin.)
To test this, take away all concepts and words relating to money – now try doing your shopping.
The difference between an ape who happily masturbates for the zoo-going public, and a homo-sapien – who hopefully doesn’t – is self-consciousness – the most fundamental element of which is linguistic self-expression and self-definition. Being better at language opens up the world in an essential way, and it opens ourselves up to ourselves and for sharing with others.
If you didn’t know any grammar, you couldn’t make sense to others at all, so couldn’t express yourself. People who crap on about not learning music theory because they ‘wanna play like me not someone else, man!’, are just talking balls. No amount of skill or knowledge can make you someone you are not (which is a stupid notion anyway – The oxymoron is the clue! HOW can we be someone we are not! Will we undergo some molecular transubstantiation of consciousness if we accidentally read the wrong book?!?! This whole post-Cartesian flap about our ‘crisis of self-authenticity’ is such a pile of arseholes!)
Knowledge only makes you more of yourself – there is no-one else you CAN be!
I respect not wanting to Write (capital W) or learn to Write for ‘a job’, but the uniqueness of language is it’s capacity to simultaneously express, shape, change and ‘enlarge’ the language user – who wouldn’t want that?
The next point the blogger made was this:
Writing in between moments of inspiration?
To me, it sounds like having sex without being aroused – I mean, one can make himself do that, but what’s the point? And, don’t get me wrong, but I think that expecting readers to enjoy reading what you didn’t enjoy writing seems like looking down on them…
Actually it’s not like sex without arousal, it’s like love without all the culturally accreted bullshit.
Loving another does mean enjoying the times things are all effortlessly aflame – but they are rare, however real the love. Very often love requires working hard for each other when times are difficult. The idea that love simply makes every day burn with passion without effort is a nonsense bred of cheap romance novels and people’s common error of mistaking an erection for the first signs of romance – love requires work.
Imagine if a partner said, “well, doing that for me was an effort for you – so you clearly don’t love me any more – we’re finished!”
I hope the reader respects that the author cares enough about them that they have worked even when it’s hard (the writing, not the erection) in order to get the story to them. Far from looking down on the reader, it’s a dedication to them, and to the writing.
Personally I find the idea that one might expect to be read even though one couldn’t be bothered to learn how to write very well far more dismissive of the reader. Equally, how much do we need an author who can only be bothered to write when it takes no effort? Isn’t that just like masturbating and expecting other people to watch in fascination?
A blog isn’t just for professional writers, but nor is it designed to be the lexical wanking house for lazy, semi-literate narcissists. You don’t have to want to be the next Proust to spend a little time becoming a good writer – out of respect for the people who are reading you, and for yourself.
You lazy bastard.
Or am I alone in this?