October 14, 2010

why I write so poorly

Having set myself about the project of publishing to my blog everything I write, I find that contrary to what I had intended I am less eager to write than ever. Most of my thoughts just aren't meant for any head but mine, and it would be an alarming mistake to give those thoughts to the world. I am a man of caution. This bold and reckless project is against my temperament (though whether good or bad for it I have yet to tell).

You are free to dismiss this excuse and replace it with your own, more plausible explanations for my sluggish pace.

But as it stands, I am unable to pick a suitable topic to write on. To resolve this issue, I have decided to make why I am unable to pick a topic the topic of this post. What follows is a rough portrait of your author. Read on and judge fairly.

*For writers struggling to find a topic, one typically advises them to “write what they know.” I believe it is more accurate to say: “Begin from what you know, and proceed to what you don’t.” This has been true for me, at least, especially when writing about film. Writing is a process of discovery and affirmation. I find that my thoughts on a topic are only sorted out having written, and even then there is a lot I do not understand. From this observation, I conclude: I write to understand.

I wrote about film to better understand film. I wrote about philosophy, literature, and politics to better understand those, as well. I write at the present moment to understand why I am unable to write. &c. Therefore--

I write about nothing because I understand everything.

And that is all there is to say on that point.

*I write as a reader. And I read as a writer. In other words, I do neither for the pleasure of the thing.

Before I continue with this point, I should make it clear what sort of reader I am, as many readers do not consider me a reader at all. What I do read: philosophy, drama, poetry, history, criticism, scholarship, travel &c. In fact, it is more precise to say: of the world of literature, I seem to have the patience for every sort of literature written but fiction. (I should add that this category includes: comics, religious works, most journalism, and other dregs of the literary world.) The majority of readers happen to read fiction, and furthermore they do it for the pleasure of the thing. The divide between me and readers, it seems, is unbridgeable. It perplexes me that so many people would waste their time reading fiction and, even more perplexing, writing it. And it justly perplexes these readers that I could call myself a reader and hardly touch a bit of fiction.

But, so that I might make my next point, please consider me a reader.

As a reader, I write under the influence of what I have most recently read. Montaigne one day, Musset the next--emulation is necessary for creation. But emulation (and imitation) will only bring you so far. I am at present reading Laurence Sterne and Cicero; I challenge you to trace even a single phrase back to the ancient statesman (those seeking a chain between me and Sterne will have an easier time of it, but do not let this fact diminish my final point). And now, finally, my point: I have reached a stage in my writing in which I have shed most of my influences but have yet to discover a voice which is fully my own.

*My third point is the most bleak, and likely the most honest point on why I am unable to find topics to write about. I shall approach it directly--

At this moment in my life, I have no direction or ambition. I have a vague notion that I want to live, but I as yet do not know how to go about doing so. Writing, like living, requires ambition, an end towards which you can pitch your soul; and even though you are likely to end up a good distance from where you had aimed, you have at least thrown yourself somewhere.

I write poorly because I live poorly. I do not know what I am doing in this world, how I got here, or where I will be going. My writing is as confused and indefinite as my existence. But I struggle on all the same.

I would like to continue with this portrait, but I have delayed this post long enough. I shall remember to write my writing history someday, when I think my history is worth writing.

But, for now, I need to find a new topic to write on.


Allison said...

I know what you mean, unfortunately.

Ian said...

Hi Allison. Hisashiburi. ^_^

I am not surprised to hear that other young people are as lost as I am. What a generation.

Zain said...

Laurence Sterne! Yes! The fact that you have read Montaigne and are reading Sterne has made me the happiest person. Although I don't know how you can read Cicero after reading Montaigne, although he quotes him frequently, Montaigne seems to hold none but awful criticism towards Cicero.

Ian said...

Montaigne certainly disagrees with Cicero on points, but I don't recall him being harsh against him (or against anyone for that matter). I thought Montaigne had a lot of respect for Cicero. Cicero is pretty dry, tho.