Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Quality and Quantity

Obviously blogging is about attempting to create a voice and to be heard. I've been struggling with the need for quality in thought and quality in writing on a public blog versus the constant demand for attention that is the Internet.

Fundamentallly, the biggest constraint against having both quality and quantity is economic. To have high quality writing and high quantity writing simultaneously, the writing has to generate income or there has to be an alternate source of income. For me there is an alternate source of income -- my legal practice -- but it sucks up all my writing time.

I've been reading Henry Miller this week and I'm envious. I'm in awe of his writing. I'm in awe of his brazenness. I'm in awe of the beauty and clarity of his words. The symbol of the starving artist, creating the masterpiece out of poverty and degredation, is embodied by Miller in Paris in the 30s. I live in a different world. I used to think that I could only create out of lonliness and in fact my most prolific times have been when I was lonely. You can only read so much. You can only write so much. If you are reading this, I'm honored because I don't think many, if any, will.

Finite time equates to finite attention and that attention needs to be allocated. Yet, I'm finding a new burst of creative energy out of companionship and stability. It isn't loneliness that leads to creativity, but the attention. Being an artist and lonely is easy, because you don't have demands on the attention. Being an artist in comfort requires that effort be made to make time to give attention to the art, to the twist of the phrase and to the flow of the sentence.

This is the basis for my angst. I believe consistent quality will breed readers, but you also have to have the time to give the attention that is necessary to create quality. Maybe it is enough that I'm concerned, but a blog isn't a book.

I always had a goal to be a published author. I have been published in periodicals. I have yet to have a book published. I take five minutes and suddenly whatever happens to spew off my keyboard is suddenly published to where anyone can read it anywhere, but so what? Why the hell would you want to read this?

The artist isn't lonely. The artist isn't about attention. The artist is about the audience and connection.

I'm torn with by the pragmatism of my father and the seeming futility of this writing. The alterations that have been wrought on my psyche by reading other writer's words has been transformative, but the cumulative effect doesn't allow for any clear allocation of responsibility (other than the impact that one author had on me by getting me to marry her). So since marriage as an impact of my authorial endeavors is off the table, how can I even know if I have an impact?

I happen to be born into a time when the spigot on authorial output is opened so wide that writing now feels like -- to borrow a metaphor that I most recently heard from my wife -- peeing in the ocean.

Writing is in stark contrast to the concrete and judgmental world of the law. The words float out and no concrete words come back, just imtimations of effect, intimations of influence, intimations that at one time the words existed. Legal words come back and bite. Legal words move things -- money and people. No one is going to call me on the telephone because I made this blog post, but I can write a letter and I can almost guarantee the receipient will call me back if I'm threatening legal action and if my legal words are ignored, I bring in the guns to force the action.

Legal writing is visceral and immediate. Artistic writing is amorphous and ephemeral.

The harm of the legal word is immediate. The harm of the artistic word is unclear and morally ambiguous.

The law is words on crack, jacked up, wide-eyed and violent. The poem is words on anesthesia, dripping slowly over the cerebrum and insuring forgetfulness.

The quality (and quantity) of legal writing is easily quantifiable. Who ended up with the most money? Who is the most free? The quality (and quantity) of novels or poems isn't necessarily decided by the number of sales or the number of readers.

The power to immediately harm makes me fear legal writing more than the novel or poem. Yet, the words of belief, the words of fiction, the words of encitement, can in the most powerful forms transform millions. The legal word is the laser quided smart bomb, where art can be the atomic bomb annhilating nations.

Combine the two?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal."

Sometimes it only takes a sentence.

1 comment:

JulieAnn said...

And you have it in you, my love, to transform those millions. You have it in you and it's right on the tip of your pen....


(not to have too much levity, but my verification word is "fisti"). Just thought it was funny....:)