Thursday, 9 September 2010

Are Writers So Special?

Excuse me whilst I try to unravel my brain, which is aching from the roadworks noise outside and drilling from house refurbishments next door...
   But still I’m trying to kick-start some thoughts about writing and writers in relation to a comment left on a recent post; especially that part of the quote from Orwell which says: ‘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.’
   This idea of the writer as a noble creature pursuing some fantastically worthy goal has only ever been true to either those who worship scribes and their art or the egotistical writer him/herself. But as Orwell also points out in the same essay, ego is an essential weapon for writers in the war against the world and their own misgivings and insecurities.
   It seems that in another age, before blogging, it was possible to raise the writer up to great heights, to share a pedestal with The Artists. But what happened? The modern (or post-modern) world is what happened.
   I’m tempted to say ‘we’re all writers now’ because so many of us have blogs, but that’s not strictly true. Many bloggers hardly write at all but, instead, provide such essential services as free downloads and great examples of design in all forms...oh and, of course, tips on how to be a great blogger, attract more traffic to your site etc. I suspect the latter is a very popular form of blogging. As is the giving-stuff-away one, of course. Perhaps those who write deepest are the least read, although from my small amount of research I see that those very personal/confessional blogs can gain a huge following.
   Anyway, before blogs, to say you were a writer immediately attached you to a school of Worthy Creativity even if you hadn’t yet been published. You were knocking at the door, at least, and inside, should you peer through the window, were Hemingway, Kafka, Tolstoy, Austen (choose your own role model). That is, unless you wrote fanzines, those precursors to the blog. In which case you might attract mild admiration from some, but mostly bewilderment on a worldwide scale since in my experience a ‘fanzine’ is meaningless to the common herd.
   This democratisation of Writing is a good thing, yes. The fact that it doesn’t cut the mustard with those who hold ‘proper’ writing in the highest esteem is partly the point, and the main source of pleasure should you be of the persuasion that embraces the writing-for-all philosophy. The elitists just don’t get the point of self-expression as a valid activity. Manacled by such concepts as ‘professionalism’, ‘real talent’, ‘high art’ etc, how can they appreciate the idea that an ‘unknown’ writer’s work can be meaningful?
   To get published by a major is difficult, but more because of their limited vision (and budget) than the need for greatness. Browse the shelves of WH Smiths and see how many ‘great’ authors fill the racks. Most of them have succeeded in packaging fiction in such a way as to fulfil (the publishers hope) a criterion dictated by ‘the market’ which, as we know, flits from fad-to-fad anyway.
   When Orwell was writing there were still many more authors who simply offered mainstream entertainment of one genre or another, which negates his claim that writers are automatically ennobled through their dedication to living determinedly singular lives outside the ordinary world of Mr & Mrs People.
   There are books filled with quotes from writers making special claims for their art. In one sense, they have to after all the time and effort they put in to producing work that, in most cases, barely earns them the minimal wage. Ego, again.
   Now, at least, we are free to write without deluding ourselves that the aim is to ‘make it’ and join the Shakespeare Squad. Lower your sights and carry on, and someone once said.
   I still believe in the power of writing, the self-empowerment, that is, as I said in an earlier post. What I do not claim is to be special in this respect. Perhaps the most any of us writers can hope for is to find a way of saying what we want to in our own voice, and that is difficult enough.
   There are other way of creating texts, but for now I won’t discuss the alternatives. So-called ‘radical’ writing is, after all, respected even less than blogging.


  1. Well, I don't care how much you deny it, I still think you're special. x

  2. Thanks Mark...(your cheque's in the post)


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