Sunday, January 23, 2011

"If tomorrow wasn't such a long time..."

Two posts about writing, a week apart. Which suggests that I am, in fact, not writing very much. True, I am reading far more than I am writing. But in reading, one sometimes finds inspiration:
"Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds' eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas—abstract, invisible, gone once they have been spoken—and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some have outlasted the lands in which they were created."
- Neil Gaiman, from the introduction to Fragile Things.
Forgive me the substancial quote. But Gaiman here deserves quoting at length, because, like John Brownlee, whom I quoted last week, he touches upon some of the small truths of writing. Brownlee discussed the inadequacy of the writer to write, and in his own way, so does Gaiman. For the act of writing is to craft a fragile thing. Gaiman, however, offers the writer some hope at least, some small chance that the words crafted will somehow survive. Underlying this all, of course, is the question of why writers write? I realize that I cannot be described, per se, as a writer. I am, more accurately, someone who writes. I do not write professionally, although I have on occasion been paid to do so. And my chosen career as scholar, done well, should involve no small amount of writing.
I suppose the question then becomes: Why do I write? Is it because I have a Muse, and relentless task master that she is, I must write, or explode from the internal pressure of ideas and brilliance, spattering my desk with brains and formidable truths? I do, Gentle Reader, have a Muse, but I doubt I would explode from the force of unuttered, unwritten words. Is it because, in some way, I seek to leave some bit of myself, some small notion of who and what I am for the world to see? To leave some insignificant mark, a scuff, a scratch, on the shiny surface of the future? Is it because my ego demands that my voice, so much clearer than the rest, be heard, and heeded? Or is it simply that I take some pleasure in seeing words form, on screen, on paper, or in the minds of those who hear me speak? To imagine that these black marks might translate into an idea, a mental image, or, God forbid, a small truth?
It might very well be a bit of all these things. They all seem to have some merit, in their own way. In any case, I am relatively sure that my writing does no great harm, and since it does bring me some joy, I shall continue to lay these words, these twenty-six characters and sundry punctuation marks, side by side, fragile though they may be.

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