Monday, July 13, 2009

Writing

I've been writing a lot of stuff since the age of 11, if not longer. I believe that was when I wrote my first short stories. I turned 11 in 1972. Not much more than a decade ago, I was still writing mostly with a pen on paper. Then, in 1997, I started to become curious about this Internet thingy, and everything changed...

In January 1st of this year, I started writing with pen on paper again, in Moleskinenotebooks with a PilotGS-2 Pro, on pretty much a daily basis. I enjoyed that. I found out that it was Bruce Chatwinwho had given Moleskines their name; I browsed through one of his books and didn't think it was for me, although that remains a very cursory first impression from which no-one should draw conclusions. Anyway, in May of this year I pretty much stopped with the Pilot and the Moleskines, because I had started with this blog, and I'm doing here very much the same thing that I was doing in the Moleskines, except that I'm trying to be more careful here, more polished in my prose style and more reserved with my judgements, and more discreet, because this is going public right away and that wasn't. Some of what I've written here I've copied from the Moleskines. I miss writing in the Moleskines, they and the GS-2 Pro have aesthetic qualities which this keyboard and monitor completely lack, but this blog has pretty much replaced them, whaddya gonna do. After this blog makes me a multimillionaire, I will have the option of writing in nice notebooks with nice pens again, I will be able to pay someone well for typing and data entry, right? Right. Since starting the blog, I've written a page and a half in the Moleskine. A page and a half in a month and a half, noting when I started using a new disposable razor, when I set a new personal best in the number of reps of the Upward Dog I could do in a set, and not a whole lot more than that. A page and a half. I was averaging more than that in a day.

I used to be downright hostile toward computers, in a way which seems to me, in retrospect, quite neo-Luddite. I used to say that I wanted to chisel my writing into granite, rather than enter it into a database via a keyboard. (I never have learned to chisel granite, despite those repeated blustering pronouncements.) It is clear, in retrospect, that my hostility was based in ignorance, and in the frustration of having tried a few times to use computers, and failed, a frustration familiar to many of us not that IT has spread so wide. I eventually learned to do a few things with computers and with the Inner Tubes, as have so many of us.

I can't be objective about the quality of my own writing, I never have been able to do that. It's very often painful to look at things I've written. Kurt Vonnegut'scomment about how he felt lousy about all the books he'd written, and Samuel Beckett'scomment about how to write is to fail, both resonate strongly with me. So I just get through each piece of writing as best I can, hope that it's not too much of an affront to my readers' taste and intelligence, and then get on to the next one. I can say of myself with some confidence that I'm a good reader, and I think there's often a connection between that and writing well, and so that gives me hope that it may not have been fully futile, all the time I've spent writing so many different things, two unpublished novels, large chunks of several more which I may or may not ever finished, who knows how many short stories, essays, letters, journal essays, emails, Internet forum posts, blog posts. Queries... Reflections on the pleasures of well-made notebooks and pens, on the frustrations and ironies and trade-offs of life.

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