Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Notes On The Purpose Of Writing

I was sat outside the Museum St cafe that I like to frequent when I go into town and Jacko was assuring me that ‘the boogie’ was to blame but for what, exactly, I’ve never bothered to work out.
   “No-one’s really interested in what you think about music,” she said.
   You’re right. I’m wasting my time. But perhaps I’m interested in what I think because writing concentrates the mind, makes me listen differently.”
   “So you write for yourself, really.”
   “Everyone does, to some extent. Even professional journalists.”
   I caught sight of myself reflected in the shop window opposite and concluded, regretfully, that despite wearing a cap and sunglasses I looked nothing like Belmondo in ‘Breathless’.
   “I mean writing’s a way of ordering the chaos that is your thoughts. It’s a kind of taming process. The thoughts are unstoppable and they come and go so randomly. But to write is to corral a few. It’s a small victory of sorts.”
   She sipped coffee. I did the same.
   “Writing can organise, illuminate, clarify, or reflect the chaos,” I said. I don’t think you even have to choose one of those options. You can use them all.”
   “Yes, but readers like a clear cut identity. Diversity confuses them, whether it’s from an artist, writer or musician.”
   “True, but if an artist gives in to what he thinks the reader wants or what he thinks the reader is capable of understanding he’s doomed.”
   “Assuming he’s writing with some grand purpose in mind.”
   “That doesn’t matter. It’s what the reader aspires to that counts. What we want. What we want, demand, seek out is all that counts. The ordinary, the average commonplace...whatever you want to call it, will always exist. But it’s the work outside of that that really matters. That’s the stuff that makes it all worthwhile.”
   “And lots of people just don’t care about any of that.”
   “And lots of people love trash TV and read The Sun. I know. But they’re not important, only in the context of culture, broadly speaking. Even then, I don’t adhere to the idea that engaging with that culture is essential. National publications feel they have to reflect everything. When we write as individuals without a care in the world for pleasing, or gaining more, readers, we are free. In writing, painting or whatever, we are truly free, or at least the possibility is there. Even that isn’t an easy thing to find because we’re always fighting preconceptions, habits, so-called high standards, doubts and insecurities. But I’d rather do that than give in to some pattern set by others. So I’ll carry on writing for myself. And no-one can stop me!”
   I thumped the metal table; an impression of an angry not-so-young-anymore man.
   She laughed, said she had to go.
   Alone, I got out the pad and wrote down what I’d just said.
   The above is a transcription of the notes I made. Except to say that they were only ever notes to start with because there had been no-one to talk to.

1 comment:

  1. Made me think of this (there are holes to be picked but go with the gist):

    “The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition – in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all – and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class”.

    George Orwell, Why I Write, 1946.


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