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Erik Hare

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Member Since: Mar, 2007

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Blogs by Erik Hare

Why Do We Write?
2/10/2008 5:37:34 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]


Why do we write? Itís a tough question. People put a lot of effort into blogs, but not too many of them are worth reading. Most of these will eventually cease to be amusing, stop being updated, and gradually dissolve as if there were never more than some kind of atmospheric turbulence. So why are they started in the first place?

The last time I tackled this question, I only had information from the observations I make on websites devoted to publishing books. From the behavior of many of the people there, I could only come to one conclusion: it was all a desperate cry for attention.

http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewblog.asp?authorid=55121&m=12&y=2007&blogid=26310

As I learn more on this topic, itís from afar, as if I am Jane Goodall observing the chimps of Gombi or Iím the chimp in the zoo observing the humans who walk by. Itís really all the same in the end. I can only answer the question for myself or through the behavior I observe, hoping I get at least close.

On one of the websites that writers routinely frequent, the topic of By-Lines came up. Specifically, the person who started this thread wanted to know what kind of memories people had about the first time they saw their name on a by-line or otherwise in print. Apparently, it can be quite a thrill, and this writer believes that remembering this thrill is somehow important to being successful as a writer.

I thoughtlessly posted my own take, unaware that it might be considered offensive. My reaction to my work in print remains as it was the first time, which is to turn the page the moment I see that my name is spelled correctly. I donít care about having my name in print other than how it becomes a brand that gets me more work. What matters most is how my message sinks into someone elseís mind and stirs them to see the world a bit differently, care a little more, or flex a strong arm to help out. The day some of my stuff hits paper is nothing more than exam day, a test of whether Iím any damned good at what Iím trying to do. The results wonít come in for a while, either.

But thatís apparently not how most of these writers felt. The first time they saw their name in print was a joyous, exciting moment. Once confessed to doing a ďSnoopy danceĒ, a terrifically happy visual metaphor. Dozens of other people chimed in, relating at length how exhilarating the feeling was. Clearly, this is indeed important to them. But why?

I donít mean to be too hard on these people because they seem like they are basically decent. Whenever I make my observations on these things that I donít really understand all that well, people often think Iím judging them by some moral standard, (a particularly humorous idea since as a Taoist I donít believe in ďmoralityĒ). But what this comes down to, as far as I can tell, is that they really want to be known as writers; writing, itself, is a primarily state of being more than doing.

Like all forms of ďbeĒ, this philosophy comes perilously close to passive voice. Personally, I consider the passive voice to be bad writing just as I consider a passive life as a story untold. . Iíve never had any interest in ďbeingĒ a writer, or ďbeingĒ anything. I leave the ďbeingĒ to those quiet nights when I need a good sleep.

What fascinates me is that there are many complex theories as to ďWhy We WriteĒ, all intricate enough to require entire college departments to remain gainfully employed forever. Literary Theory is something that I havenít been highly subjected to, as I have an Engineering degree from Carnegie-Mellon; my school kept it real. What Iíve seen of it is that as a gregarious kind of primate, all human writing needs to be analyzed from a social perspective. The meaning comes from how the text encapsulates the world it came from.

Now, thereís not a single aspect of contemporary literary theory that canít be refuted by some part of the Tao Te Ching rather elegantly, but that is my own bias. Letís leave it to Ian McEwan, who said, ďLiterary theory has always struck me as a fabulous waste of time.Ē Sadly, the people I observe from behind the brush are people with English degrees and the like, who had heaping gobs of this stuff thrown at them in college. The state of being that defines writerdom is apparently a distinct social class defined in part by gobbledygook.

Whatís funny about it all is that it is obvious that many people arenít writing for a particularly social reason at all. They simply want to be heard. In a complicated industrial society like ours, where namelessness is something of the norm, thatís entirely understandable. But if it is true that this is a powerful motivation, it means that nearly everything that academics think about writing is quite wrong. The struggle often isnít social class against social class, but individual against any number of social classes. The academic class is as valid a target as any other.

Why do I write? Iím considered a bit odd because I generally write to convince or inform. I want to hear what other people have to say in return, and Iím not successful until I hear someone like State Sen. John Marty repeat my arguments on the floor of the Senate. I believe thereís too much injustice and pain in the world to do otherwise, and the violence Iíve seen only proves that point. Writing is only one tool in the toolbox, and some people tell me Iíve become decent at the craft. Plus, I enjoy it.

Seeing my name in print? The by-line is just the person who gets the blame for all the mistakes; I wonít know if the piece is successful until something changes. Thatís what social context really means, as far as I can tell.


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Adopted by an American Homosexual in the Belgian Congo by Albert Russo

Edmund White: ęAlbert Russo has recreated through a young African boy's joys and struggles many of the tensions of modern life, straight and gay, black and white, third world and f..  
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