Archfriend: On Writing part 2: Writing

Just before I was struck by a certain tragedy, which caused me to fall into a deep depression, leading to repeated listenings of the most depressing Type O Negative (R.I.P.) songs such as "World Coming Down" and "Everyone I Love is Dead" and "Everything Dies", followed by a descension into the deepest abyss of the most depressing music ever made by an obscure band called Khanate (R.I.P.), dwelling in the darkest recesses of their 33-minute magnum opus "Hell Is Every God Damn Thing"...

Just before all that, I was about to write up a long self-motivational piece on writing, on why I write, and more specifically: why I don't write. But I'm feeling better now. I've since ordered a replacement copy of Pokemon White, which I'll have to play from the beginning all over again, but I don't mind, and I am now listening to the super-go-happy music of the J-pop trio PERFUME, who make such delightfully upbeat tracks such as "Oishii Recipe" and "Akihaba Love" and "Computer Shitty". I've also recently bought 13 Assassins on blu-ray, and I love that god damn movie, so it's hard to feel down right now. Right now, I can write about writing again. So here goes!

In part one I wrote about learning Japanese as one of the activities I want to continue this year under a more rigid régime. Another activity is writing on this blog. I've been terribly inactive the past few months, because I felt writing has become a huge strain. Anyone else who writes will agree: it's painful and time-consuming, and it doesn't get any easier. The more you write, the more you aim to get better, and better, and that means more to think about, and that's exhausting for the brain. If you want to be the best, it's going to hurt. When you know something's going to hurt, your initial reaction is that you don't want to do it. Just getting over your initial reaction is painful. It's like adding more fuel to your aircraft just to make up for the extra weight it's gained by adding fuel in the first place.

I guess one might conclude that I hate writing. This is true: I hate writing, but I want to write more. Why? This is the question one needs to ask before engaging any form of creativity, which I will ask again in different forms in my upcoming posts on drawing and music: Why do I want to write more, when I hate doing it?

There are many answers, and I will go over a few which George Orwell has outlined in his short essay Why I Write, but here I've thought about an answer for myself, and this is it: I like to read. Actually, I'll read anything as long as it's in legible English, that includes writing of my own. I suppose when I write, I am writing what I would ideally want to read, and that's where I find the joy of it all. But to re-iterate: it is the act of writing that pains me, and that is why I don't write as much as I want to.

This year I have resolved to write more, particularly in this blog of mine. For one thing, I know I am my own audience here, so quantity over quality is not an issue. That is why I have come up with a schedule to update this blog at least once or twice a week, on Tuesdays and/or the Weekends. I'm not worried about writer's block, as I know there is always something for me to write about. Last year I've wanted to write about many things but never did, but that was because of the pain, not because of lack of topics. This year, however, I want to write more, and so I shall, because I want to read, because I am reading, and I have read much.

George Orwell wrote an essay in 1946, called Why I Write, shortly after he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was in a bit of a rut at the time, and needed to refresh his mind on the purpose of writing. He died before he could finish what he was working on, but I picked up this essay (published by Penguin with a collection of some of his other essays) when I was in a rut myself, hoping to find a way out. It didn't have an immediate effect, but over time I've come to appreciate his conclusions, and adapted them to my own causes. I'll cut straight past the bulk where he talks about his early years and focus mainly on his four motives, which he mentions are not all equally weighted within all writers, and each motive varying from time to time within each individual writer themselves, according to their surrounding atmosphere.
1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. etc. It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen--in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. 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 same 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, wilful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centred than journalists, though less interested in money.
This motivation, when weighted the heaviest, I think brings out the worst in a writer. I've asked the question "Why should I write?", but if there was an answer to the question "Why shouldn't I write?", it would be sheer egoism. If you think you are a born genius, with a god-given gift of prose to bestow upon the world, that all mankind should bow down in your mastery of language, then you are doing it wrong. Most likely your writing is terrible, and people will say so. It's not bad to have an ego, because you need it to start writing in the first place, but I recommend a humility to accept you are still learning, still open to exploration, and discovery, no matter what point in life you are in.
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or a writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
This one is the closest to resembling my own answer: I write because I like to read, and I like to read what I write. If I didn't like reading, or reading what I wrote, then I wouldn't bother. I couldn't imagine a more boring existence for myself, though. And once again, too much weight on this motive will bog you down, without the following two motives to come, you'll resort to writing about just trivial things, which in the end are just trivia, no matter how fancy your words flourish.
3.Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
This motive, albeit short, I think has most importance. You can write your heart out all you want but unless you have something to write about, then your writing amounts to nil. Its description may sound like journalism at first, maybe a bit of egotistic want of being credited for a discovery, but this motive is true not just of writing, but of existence itself. In Renee Descart's simple yet profound quote: "I think therefore I am", he expressed existence as a consciousness. In Brandon Carter's Anthropic Principle, he expressed consciousness as a means of existence, that being here is proven by the fact that we are being here. Socrates expressed "not knowing is the path to knowing", and knowledge is at the heart of writing itself. What would we be without it?
4. Political purpose--using the word 'political' in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.
Whether you're into politics or not (I certainly am not), I think it's true that all internal conflicts within every individual stems from their political environment. Jean-luc Godard was trying to prove this with his series Histoire(s) du cinéma, that all film, writing and art were products of the political surroundings of its time, one just needs to open their eyes and make the correlations. I think it's certainly true of my own conflict: why I don't write. I don't write because I'm exhausted, because I work full-time to make a living, that my time of leisure is waning at the limits of my expenses: the cost of living rises twice, maybe thrice, every year, and my paycheck only rises once, and not sufficiently. I feel like a proletariat, in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' The Communist Manifesto, and my mind goes over the opening sentence: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles". I feel I'm being exploited for my labour, and I'm not being compensated for it. I might need another means of income, maybe I should become a writer? An artist? A musician? I know other countries have it a lot worse, and there are places I would rather not be right now. Even right here where I am, I think it could be better. And so I crave, I want, and want, and write, to be better, to better, to bridge the gap between author and reader, between time and space and culture and personality. So God luck and good speed (plus wizard fight)!

And so I leave you, dear reader (that's me!), with one final piece: an excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s final novel Timequake. He wrote this book out of his love of books (as opposed to television), as well as a fine example of the four Orwell motivations above. But here, he moves past the why and on to the how.
Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn't work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they're done they're done.
I'm probably more swooper than basher, which probably makes me a bit girly, but so be it! I'm probably about ready to go back to sleep, as I've had enough swooping for these past two days (yes it took two days to write this up), it's done my head in.

Up next in this series, I'll be talking about drawing and illustration, or will I be talking about music? It depends whatever I'm in the mood for. Maybe I'll talk about something else entirely. That isn't to say, I don't have plenty to say about drawing and music, but the pain! O the pain!

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