Some Thoughts on Writing 

There comes a time when a man realises that if he wishes to write, then he must in fact write. The proper way to do this is meaningless. There is no proper way so long as words keep on appearing on the screen. It’s fair enough to pause for a moment to correct a spelling or to use the naturally better word, but the aim should be to keep on typing and typing.

I wonder what would happen if we were to sit down together with this app open. Agree a time to start and start typing down our thoughts? I wonder what voice you would hear speaking in your head and which voice it would resonate with in my own. You see we do not hear the voice which says the words, but in reading discover a voice which seems to fit the words. I forget which writer it was but he helpfully observed that half of the book or the essay or the blog post, or even the words themselves, are written by the author. The other half, well the other half are written by the reader. One might start writing, for example, of a world which seems as real to us as the one in which we write. A brave world. A different world, with people and creatures guided by rules and principles which seem at once alien and familiar to our own. But the world which one starts writing, is not the world which the other creates. There may well be an overlap, a similarity to these dreams but it seems to me that no one can ever read the same book as another.

In a way that’s a rather a lonely idea.

There’s thousands of ‘great’ works which millions have read and thought about. Yet for each one the world that they experience, while commonly inspired, is unique. There would be those who should like to say that this is no different to the way that each of us subjectively engages with the so called ‘objective’ world around us. The issue here is that each secretly supposes that their own subjective experience gives them a solid insight into the objective which they seek. Yet which of us today would read an email written two or five years ago to another and suggest that they still see the world as they saw it before? Day by day we create new realities so fast that our pictures of the world have become rambling movies, only a little more coherent and consistent than this own piece of writing.

This piece has the semblance of sense because the eye moves from one word to the next and the mind processes what is current with a degree of priority over what was before, while even then reaching out to eat the words which are yet to come.

This is where we find the second myth of the shared experience of the writer and the reader. For the reader, there is material laid before them as a path through the countryside to a village. One may wander along through some trees here. Through some fields there. Yet there is ever that looming and growing view of the end. But for the writer, there is no such clear way. Only emptiness on the screen and maybe a few stray thoughts wrestling with one another in the mind, begging to escape through the fingers. Indeed for the writer, the way to the end is to cling to that intangible something which compels the writer to write in the first place. The irony being that in the end all they have are words and those words will, for them, create a new world the next time they read them.

The real grasps for that which is intangible and produces something only a shade less obscure; teasing the mind with the sense of productivity and satisfaction. Yet, as every and any writer could tell you, they could always have phrased it better. It could have better punctuation. Longer sentences. More succinct ways of expressing the concept. Maybe even an appealing attempt at alliteration, which somehow never quite hits the intended meter.

This is electrifying. There’s an interesting experience which just occurred with the writing of that very word. Momentarily I wrote that this was paralysing. Then I waited. My mind was blank. The only way to move forwards was to change the word from a stop to movement. It was electrifying. That alone shows the trouble with writing. It is all too easy to stop and all too hard to write. Having started, having marked one’s course by the compass, one must march forward. The fingers type the keys and the pen scratches across the page; thus the writer writes.

Allow this writer to lead you on a little further down the path because there is another mystery between the writer and the reader. Just as the reader can see where the material is going, so too he can read the material far faster than the writer can produce it. This is obvious!, you say. Yes it is. But it is seldom accounted for. Think back to those emails and messages that you have sent to your friends and family. Not just the mundane ‘How are you’s but think of the angry responses which have been firmly crafted (and hastily sent). The time which goes into the writing lends an importance to the words for the writer. This is because attention is currency – a concept that few understand.

There’s a a qualitative distinction between the value that a text has for the author and the value which it has for the recipient. A poem might well be the best example, because a poet has lived with the dream and imbibed the composition; most likely working through several drafts before approaching something which approximates to the  intention. The hours that it takes to compose a truly intelligent and beautiful poem is gargantuan compared to the time that most people take to read the 14 lines a couple of times.

Does that make writing the less valuable? Goodness me, no. Does it account for the hope of anticipation when someone else reads that which we have written, only to feel the empty drop in the guts when that acknowledge that it’s “alright“? It seems likely, at least in part. Sometimes the writer is guilty of pausing in time to write… that which should be denoted by some form of punctuation. As if the words on the page genuinely do infer the spirit of the intention that wrote it.

Alas, when the writer wishes to make plain that he has paused, or that he has at last (by his reckoning) reached the end, he must make it plain. And so, for this occasion, the fingers tap tapping away on the keys must falter and dwindle to a not quite satisfied but pleasantly content silence.

_____

Just for fun, I should point out that I have not returned to edit any of the phrasing or structure of this piece. I simply sat down and let my fingers type. I trust that your eyes have enjoyed the reading as much as I enjoyed the writing.

The ‘app’ referred to is CalmlyWriter.

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