Does Writing Matter? #
The invention of writing began around the year 2300 BCE. Its primary function was to record commercial transactions using symbols stamped onto wet clay tablets. Eventually bored by the mechanical recording of trade, scribes began to experiment by recording the songs and ballads of the tribe. It is believed the first author is Enheduanna, the love priestess daughter of one of her father, King Sargon the Great, who had created an empire centered at the city of UR in the fertile crescent on the banks of the Tigris River.
Since then creative artists have experimented with many forms or genres to recreate life as they envisioned it. All art is the act of creating something from nothing; improving on a blank space. The aim is to make “Order out of chaos, clarity out of confusion, sense out of the senseless, inspiration out of nothing”. John Olson claims “art is a revelation of the unknown” – the unknowable? Art doesn’t answer any questions; rather attempts to ask the right questions.
Robert Frost says we can never know anything for certain. “My poems are set to trip the reader’s head most foremost into the boundless, into the dark and let them find their own way out.”
We dance round in a ring and suppose But the secret sits in the middle and knows.
Writing is a way of conveying to our descendants how to live and love; how to overcome travail, failure, suffering, doubt to find joy, hope and purpose.
Writers recognise the beauty in brokenness and find ways to repair the wounds of the past.
The writer needs to convince the reader to believe the narrative, even though both know that it is fiction. Margaret Atwood
Writers are mysteries to themselves, constantly trying to solve the mystery through invented characters and scenarios. Joanna Murray-Smith
The inner truth of experience and authenticity of emotion are, cleansing to a defiled world. Both writers and readers can experience the therapy of catharsis or purification by engaging with the text.
All the authors are prepared to devote any amount of time and intellectual industry, and to renounce almost everything, in the exhausting bid to wrestle the world into words, leaving us to revere the result and to inquire how much was entailed in the sacrifice. Anthony Lane
“Writers know that talent is real, success is arbitrary, and that the relationship these two facts bear to each other is a mystery.” B. D. McClay
All Art attempts to articulate pre-rational human awareness of the world around us, natural phenomena, our place in nature and our capacity for self-reflexion. It expresses our dark intuitions that cannot be articulated in the light of reason.
Art happens when someone wants to do it and needs to express an idea. Advertising and propaganda start from given ends and work backward to means.
Genuine art attempts to depict the essence to establish the truth.
Writers driven by ceaseless curiosity can have the urge to share their newly found knowledge.
“‘Creating’, wrote Albert Camus, ‘is living doubly’. He was thinking about Proust when he wrote those words – the Frenchman’s assiduous assembling of the living details of his world. The carpets, the flowers, the wallpaper patterns, the dresses, the table settings, the jewellery and walking sticks, the teacakes and bed blankets: the sheer clutter of stuff in space and time. His imagination was like some nightmare.”
Matthew Arnold claimed that “the study of literature gives you the best vantage point from which to understand an entire society”.
Marshall McLuhan stated that: “the chances of understanding the meaning of our involvement in the present is very small. It is generally the artists who see what they are living in the present and we are always one step ahead (of technology)”.
Aesthetic artefacts can generate insights. Stories, history, art are where we glimpse the meaning of it all.
Freud claimed all great art originated from a diseased mind, while Robert Frost admits that “being a poet is not a profession; it is a condition”. Though they attempt to hid behind masks, most poets express their deepest guilt, fears, insecurities, hopes, ecstasies or obsessions, all the while pretending to be creating art. Writing is being haunted by your own ghosts, only exorcised by expression.
Great literature can give us a clearer perspective of our own perceptions of life in all its complications. It helps us to see the big picture rather than our own narrow and limited experiences reveal; it helps us to transcend and globalise our concerns. It gives us a chance to learn from the giants of the past and can give us a cautionary warning about the direction our society is taking us.
Literature – all art - focusses a spotlight on an issue. It gives it a center within an aesthetic space, which is then manipulated to bring out the essence; what Hopkins calls “inscape”.
You can make anything by writing. C. S. Lewis
“The novelist’s job is to turn a slight, even a rumour, into a certain reality”. Julian Barnes
Writers are not here to conform. We are here to challenge. We’re not here to be comfortable—we’re here, really, to shake things up. That’s our job. Jeanette Winterson
In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it. Alex Haley
A well-written life is almost as rare as a well-spent one. Thomas Carlyle
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. W. Somerset Maugham
Writing is nothing more than a guided dream. Jorge Luis Borges
Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else. Gloria Steinem
Juvenal refers to “the itch for writing”, while Cerdiwen Dovey confesses to the guilty pleasure of writing.
Every writer I know has trouble writing. Joseph Heller
A funny writer is a writer to whom the reader gives a great deal of power. Lauren Groff
To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself. Anne Rice
I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. Anne Frank
If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.
Prince Harry has defended the Netflix series The Crown, saying that – while it was not “strictly accurate” – it portrayed the pressures of royal life.
Virginia Woolf said that “fiction is like a spider’s web” (A Room of One’s Own 2), a web that resonates every time it is touched. The spider’s web is an image of a complex, but coherent structure. Like many Modernists, Woolf tried to create a cohering pattern underneath the chaos of reality.
“There are some stories that have to be told by each generation”.
“I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.”
“I want to write a novel about Silence," he said; “the things people don’t say.”
“Yes, I deserve a spring– I owe nobody nothing.”
“anyone who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm.”
The poet’s skill lies in the summoning and semantic energies of words. Seamus Heaney
Art relies on nuances, suggestion - the multiples meanings of words and the inferences we all choose to draw.
Re-creating, imitating or reflecting reality is problematic. Reality exists in a liminal undefinable space often protected by a shell, masquerading as something else. Hopkins refers to attempting to pierce that façade to discover the essence; the impossible space behind the mask - Inscape. All art is an attempt to represent tangible objects in real time and space, striving to depict an invisible self. Successful art, like The Mona Lisa or The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, intrigues us by tantalising enigmatic mystique.
Most common regrets of the dying: “ I wish I’d had the courage of expressing my feelings”, or “I wish I’d spent more time with my family”.
Literature can enflame our determination to pursue justice. - Susan Sage
Esteemed by some philosophers as the highest virtue, the delivery of justice demands and rivets attention. And the opposite is true as well: the perceived miscarriage of justice commands attention, sparking outrage and condemnation.