Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Write?

I've a piece on the ABC today, 'Why Write?'

I'm trying to identify some of the rewards of writing - for writers.  A sample:
From the simplest storybooks to the most complicated Jamesian prose, writing necessarily involves conflict and confusion.

Yet we keep writing. Why? 'My pen,' wrote Ovid to the Emperor Augustus, 'is the best part of me.' Despite the frustrations and anxieties, something pushes us to put pen to paper, fingertip to keyboard. But what is this something?

I'm sure I've missed a few things.  But it strikes me that community, expression and rationality are a good start.

(Photo: ABC)

9 comments:

Emma Kirsopp said...

Perhaps, like all creative pursuits,we do it to breath...

Peter Fyfe said...

quod possum

Damon Young said...

EK: Yes, it's a necessity, of sorts. But I'm asking, in my way: what does breathing do for us? Why do we need to?

PF: I'd say 'must' rather than 'can'. (Assuming I've 'possum' right.)

Peter Fyfe said...

DY: I'm hearing you, but I'm increasingly inclined to reverse the causality and shift the focus to more poetically fertile ground.

Is it "you must breath to live" or "you must live to breath"? The former seems to imply living as the important thing, the latter breathing and all that experience can reveal.

For me, this sort of reversal (which I whimsically call "disinflection") restores the meaning to what we're doing and removes the possiblity it's not fundamental to who we are, which I really like. It also removes the implied premise that this magical precious activity can be reduced into some benefit analysis of the kind that always sounds plausible but fails to stir the heart.

If a bird can walk, why fly? Quod possum.

Emma Kirsopp said...

Disinflection. What a beautiful word. If a bird can walk, why fly? To outdo those predators that can also walk. Perhaps writing/creativity comes back to ensuring survival....

Damon Young said...

PF: I think living's the important thing. And I'm interested in what adds to it, i.e. what encourages human flourishing. Writing's only one part of this.

EK: As above, I'd say 'flourishing' not 'survival'. I can survive without writing. But it'd be a diminished life.

Now, we can say there's some kind of necessity here, i.e. an existential one. For example, we might say: To be me, I must write.

But this is a slightly different question.

Peter Fyfe said...

EK: Thanks! My "classic" disinflection example is as follows: not "I write a play", but "a play writes me". The work becomes the subject not the object of our action... and it points up how we're created by our writing.

Perhaps this style of thinking is why I feel the value calibration is very wrongly skewed if it allows us to even consider accepting that a creative life isn't the minimum acceptable baseline for survival of a species given the privilege of an Imagination, this divine 'thing' that allows us to fly without wings for no reason other than the joy of it.

DY: I guess I just cannot accept living in any sense as separable from the work of Imagination... to do so strikes me as a reductive fragmentation of all that is precious. Life'd be so much easier if I could! :)

Damon Young said...

Yes, living's enriched by the imagination. But writing is not the only imaginative activity. And imagination is not the only enrichment. There's also moral virtue, or physical exertion, for example.

So it behooves the philosopher to see what each adds to life, rather than identifying each with life, or seeing one as somehow primordial.

Emma Kirsopp said...

PF:
I have become so enamoured with disinflection, I want to ask your permission to use the word as the title for a project I am starting. It encapsulates so well the nature of the the work....