“[W]riting is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very idea of the body writing.” – Barthes, Image Music Text, p 142
Last year I took the time to read Why I Write by George Orwell. This book is a gem in the Orwell bibliography, mainly due to its often brutal honesty and informal tone. It reads like a diary, or like a blog. Orwell’s conclusion (in my own far too shallow words) was that he wrote to help people think differently about politics and society. Orwell’s goal was for people to understand how competition and greed make us worse as a species, and wanted people to see how working together is working toward a more utopic common goal.
Blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, developed in the 1980s by and for computer programmers and users. It was through the implementation of the internet that blogging found its real voice. Through sites like WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger, the medium was given an aid to grow into one of the largest single information entities on the internet. There are countless modes of blogging – often writers adopt a first-person dialogue (similar to this piece), at other times bloggers write in a journalistic or academic style; some write creatively, others write sincerely. Some just post photo after photo of their pets. Yet all of these modes have a voice for an audience.
This mixed environment of writing styles and writers has not only led to blogs becoming such a major part of the internet, but it has also contributed to the multiple personality of the internet. Blogging is a good metaphor for postmodern theory – individual thought-streams are offered publicly and seem to swirl around aimlessly in the internet’s ambiguous pool of information, just like postmodern theories offer the inner-workings of the mind being brought out to a public platform.
I find this concept overlaps nicely with more recent theories on how people share information. Eben Moglen put it beautifully: “It’s an emergent property of connected human minds that they create things for one another’s pleasure and to conquer their uneasy sense of being alone.” (“Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright,” First Monday, 1999). Blogging is not necessarily just a stream of consciousness, but it is sharing, creating things for others and for oneself.
So to my own personal quandary: Why do I write? The answer when I began this blog nearly eighteen months ago would have probably been “I don’t know”. I started this blog with a few different ideas in mind. I had hoped to create a platform for reviews and thoughts about art, film, music and coffee (four of my favourite things). Within a month, I had begun to see my own writing style develop, and became aware of how my original concept was slipping away and Moon Under Water was becoming something that did not in any way resemble this original idea. As soon as I realised this, I embraced it.
I realised that I had a lot to write about, and that my streams of consciousness were not really focussed on single fields of study (like art, film, music or coffee). Granted, this scattered mind might be due to all the coffee, but at this early stage I saw MUW as a platform that could express many of the concepts that I approach in my artwork, only using words instead of visuals. And as I make art for people to see, so I began to write things for people to read.
But the main thing that I realised at this point was that I took pride in forming tangible links between things, or developing ideas that could alter how other see things. When I write a piece that resonates with an online audience, I receive more comments and more feedback. I am pointed to new information, and I gain experience and knowledge myself. The process is symbiotic, and encourages me to write better posts. Similarly when a friend quotes my blog in conversation I am thrilled–the feeling is honest pride mixed with an acknowledgement from my peers whom I respect greatly. I write for the perspectives that others are gaining something by reading the words that I put down, and for my own gains in terms of pride, development and general happiness!
So why do I write (in a nutshell)? For readers, naturally! I try to draw connections and think of new ways of looking at things for readers to share with me. And I read for the same reason. Yochai Benkler sees this type of sharing as a new model that is becoming part of our core structure, aided by the internet (with such a strong belief that he made his entire book on this subject free to read online). Rather than competing, we are sharing information and ideas to make things better. I love the idea that something simple that I have written will one day help some distant person to create a great song or paint a masterpiece. This is the essence of the shared culture that we live in, and is the core reason why I write.
George Orwell wanted to change how people think through his writing. I share this with him, although there is a difference. He was writing in a book among relatively few published authors, hoping to spread the idea that together people are better. I am writing on the multifaceted platform of blogging, alongside millions of others who share this passion.
And that makes me wonder whether Orwell was in fact successful in his own goal.
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