So far in my posts on this blog I have only hinted at the reasons for writing them. In one sense, no justification is necessary; this blog is not being written under duress, and, intentional fallacies aside, there are no coded messages hidden in the text that implore the reader to send for help. No, I do it, of course, because I want to, but why do I want to?
There are the obvious motivations: I want to practice my writing; to generate additional impetus to help with writing the novel; to receive feedback; etc; etc. Case closed.
But still this is avoiding the question: why write anything at all? Simply put, I have ideas, and ones which I thought were interesting, and wanted to record them. But is that sufficient explanation?
Sometime ago I came across the following quote from Nassim Taleb.
Most people write so they can remember things, I write to forget.
At the time I thought this was the typically-contrary type of statement in which Taleb seems to specialise, a sign of his wilful individualism, but I’m beginning to be convinced.
For years, intermittent thoughts bubbled up, occasionally recurring, and which I thought might make a good plot for a story, or perhaps a humorous set-piece, or simply an insightful observation. Even the ideas that I thought would be interesting to others were ignored; at most they were occasionally jotted down on a tiny scrap of paper only to be tossed away later. Over time though a feeling grew in me that this wasn’t a sufficient response, that something more permanent should be constructed from them. It was a discomfort that these ideas were being lost forever, with no guarantees that I could ever regenerate them on demand in future.
Despite this reasoning, I suspect I feel similarly to Taleb. I might write down the ideas so that they are remembered, sure, but they won’t need to be remembered by me. Once the initial documenting is completed I can simply forget about them, and be guilt-free in my forgetfulness. The instinct to hoard is sated.
The problem is that writing down an idea isn’t as simple a task as it sounds. Sometimes the idea is actually just the suspicion of one, the hint of its existence, a sense that there is something there, but it’s inchoate and inarticulate. It needs a physical medium in which to assume a form and to permit its boundaries to be shaped and discovered with any precision.
What they don’t seem to tell you, or perhaps they do and we ignore it, is that the cure is as harmful as the disease. In the writing of thoughts already had, are spawned many more; writing is dangerous.
Moreover, once started, there is no way to quit. It is no cure, merely a palliative. There is only temporary respite until the calls of the newly-discovered ideas become too strong to ignore. Nothing to be done but wait until the ideas stop coming. But who would wish for such a thing? Not I, never, quite the opposite.
Inevitably though, the flow will cease, and what better comfort for that moment than documentary evidence? I can show my sceptical, older self that the younger manifestation did indeed once possess ideas, and with them produced something original, even interesting. Geoffrey Wellum had it right when he said he wrote to convince himself that, at some point in his life he had been of use.
At the very least, and even if nobody ever reads it, writing is reassurance.
For any readers who also write: what drives you? Please do share your thoughts below…