Why Write?

Startup Stock Photos


At an event I once hosted, I asked the assembled writers this question. Besides the “practical ordering of my reality” type of answer, there were also some surprises: one woman had been a classical singer, but failed, and needed to embark on something else having to do with language. One man said, I write to talk about what I read—equally unassuming. I began to think that it would be much more stimulating to know why certain writers wrote than to engage with anything they had written, especially fiction or poetry—two ultimate forms needing years of practice. It’s debatable who said, “Everyone has a book in them…” yet the second clause of that sentence, as uttered by Christopher Hitchens, is concretely dismissive of the first: “…but in most cases, that’s where it should stay.” Who would have thought there were so many writers, that oodles would have the calling—many thanks to the internet? Now there is no barrier to that fusty adage, but it might be better to say, Everyone has some opinions in them. Continue reading

We would gladly have repainted the trees and the sky

Peter Greenway’s film A Zed & Two Noughts (A.K.A. Z00) [1985] begins with a swan crashing into a car, killing two people. The driver survives, but lives the remainder of the film as an amputee having lost her right leg. By film’s end, the amputee decides to remove her one remaining leg and falls in love with another double amputee.

Writing is an act of disability

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Gabriel Orgrease: On Ritual

My ritual as a writer is to seek dissociation from my consciousness. I look for opportunities that take me out of myself, that challenge me not so much in the craft as writer but that question my existence as an individual and within a social context of family and extended community. As a writer I look for ways in which to see the text that I have created from the outside.

“As the afterglow of a night spent after he ingested a bit too much LSD. Small white pills and he was drunk and stoned and did not realize until a while later that he had ingested everyone’s score. An odd night, it was the day afterward of a stark dissociation, lost here and now, that had the profound long-range impact. It was

of infinitude in a Blakean sense of perpetual epiphany. Though it was a curious place to visit it was not one in which he desired to take up a full-time residence.”

I came across these words stored on my computer and as I read them became more and more irritated, and jealous, that someone had written something that appeared to me lucid and I did not know who it was… until I realized that it was me.

It is not a question of lighting smelly candles, though I may do that, or playing gong music that sounds like pots and pans struck by a baboon, though I may also do that, but it is always a ritual to seek a way to meet myself in life and work as if I am my own stranger. Continue reading

Write the Surface

File under tools for writers: Swype has come out with a gesture-based text input for touchscreen devices. Words are written by tracing consecutive letters on the keyboard without lifting your finger. Someone has even used it to break the Guiness World Record for fastest texting. When I tried it on my friend’s Android mobile, it didn’t simply predict words appropriate for business exchange (e.g. “See you at the meeting”) but was 100% accurate with more poetic text (I tried “Curling lip exchange”). You have to see it to believe it:

Reminds me of Picasso’s drawings with light:

Picasso draws with light

Via ffffound.com

How will what we write change when we can record words as fast as we can think them? Will we more accurately capture a flash of inspiration? Unlike putting pen to paper, when typing on a keyboard (whether typewriter or laptop) the physical motion of writing “a” is virtually the same as for any other letter. Could interfaces like Swype bring us a more intimate relationship with the letters we write? Do we even care?

My one criticism is that Swype should have gone even further–why stick with the QWERTY keyboard layout? Why not have custom keyboards for individual users (recognizable by fingerprint)? Since Swype can theoretically work on any touchscreen of any size, not just the ones on tiny mobile devices, we should expect such interfaces to become more common. The speed and motion of recording ideas in words is changing, and I hope these changes will also bring some interesting (and even unintended) effects on the literary quality of what we write.

Like a Virgin

Lost Innocence

Ashley Ryder probably experiences the same irony about porn.

One of the great ironies of being a writer is that you necessarily lose the ability to experience writing in the way that first made you want to write. Sometimes when I’m in the midst of taking some passage apart in order to figure out how a particular author has achieved a certain effect, I’m overcome with a kind of deep sadness resulting from the fact that I can’t simply let such mysteries be, to bask in the baffled state of wonder I have, say, about my iPhone.

Do you read like a writer? If so, is it always a good thing?