I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase that I’ve coined in connection with the writing that I do and would like to do. Writing seems a safe hobby for me – I can be indulgent, exploratory and fanciful without forcing myself on others. Of course I have some vague notions that I’d like to write for a living, but there is a little reluctance there, or rather a conditional. I’d like to write for a living if I could write quietly, producing the kind of texts that people take away to be consumed in the privacy and comfort of isolation. As a reader, I may and indeed do privately consume thousands upon thousands of words every year, but I reserve my right to rant and rave about the good stuff. As a writer, I don’t really want to talk about my writing – I’m much clumsier than my writing might suggest, and there are so many times I reflect on conversations I have had, berating myself for being so slow-witted, and writing an alternate conversation in which I’m clever, engaging and funny.
At the moment I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead, which is about writing, and I’m curious about this notion she explores about the writer being double: a Jekyll and Hyde, a right and left, a thinker and a do-er. I’m still ruminating about whether I think I suffer from duality, and if I don’t, does that make me less of a writer? Atwood’s suggestions seem to be based on the fact that writers produce something that has a life beyond themselves, but to me, a text has no life outside that given to it by a reader, which is more to do with the reader than the writing. The jury is still out on this one, though I am really enjoying the book.
I feel that the position of being a reader, or even an audience, is a very special one. Sharon Kivland has lots to say about being a reader, and one of these days I’ll gather the courage to read what she has to say: courage because I have such high expectations of enlightenment and clarity that I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed. Sharon Kivland, in her many explorations of the position of reading, tried reading cheap fiction as though it were a tome (up at a desk with a straight backed chair) and tried reading thick theoretical texts as though they were fiction (with legs dangling over the side of the sofa, or propped up on elbows in bed). It could be that this is a myth, but it’s one I like to think is true, and it wouldn’t matter even if it were not. Joanne Lee, an old tutor of mine and someone I am lucky enough to now call a friend, wrote a wonderful article about Sharon’s work in The Blue Notebook. When I finally get links working on here, I’ll be sure to point you to it.
More on quiet writing, and my passion for reading, to come…