Saturday, April 21, 2012

Writing In Public

In Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge, which was published in 1968, the title character/narrator observes “…to write in public in the electronic age is to commit an antisocial obscenity.” This, of course, was years before ubiquitous personal devices, before it became a social norm to check in on facebook and check out of the physically proximate: those who may be asking you how you’re doing or trying to take your coffee order or warn you of an approaching bear.

So why does writing in public still feel so dangerous? I’m talking about writing, not pressing buttons, I’m talking scribe, the act of leveraging a pen between three fingers and moving it along a surface. Why is it that when I walk down the street and get an idea and try to record it by putting pen against paper against the wall of the nearest building, it feels like an alarm is going to go off?

There’s a reason why writing can mean graffiti. Even when a piece of paper separates your pen from the building’s wall, though, cars slow, necks crane. Heads shake? Why would you have an idea, people wonder, and why would you use someone else’s property as a means—however indirect—of capturing it?

Or am I just that self-conscious? In reality, how can anyone care? This is a tension I’m used to, the one between wanting to be read and wanting to be ignored. That’s why I lock myself in a room to write: some day someone will read this, some day this will be public. Just not right now. This thing is too fragile right now, will shrivel in the sunlight, will shrink at the sound of sirens.

The public realm is not one of creativity. That’s why performance art is both so compelling and so disparaged. Keep that shit in your books, in your ipods, plug it into the zeros and ones that compose your blogs. Our range of creativity, by design, is limited.

All around us is a culture on autopilot, made manifest in the landscape, one that repeats and re-repeats the same mistakes, that is “created” and re-“created” not for us to exist in or bounce off of but rather for us to stick to our path and turn a profit for a select few, who then hand a cut over to our legislators, who in return shirk their responsibility of creative solutions, as do we, this is, after all, a democracy, and it’s our duty as its citizens to stay informed, and we see via our personal devices that drones will now populate our own skies as well as those of our enemies, that the cameras now trained on us are there to keep us safe.

Creativity, when not in service of making these dudes a buck, is not good for capitalism. So stay numb. I know I do. When outside, I avoid interaction, and thus potential confrontation, whenever possible. And when I go to bed at night, rather than interrupting my eight hours and taking the time to write down my dreams, I wake in the morning and, first thing, I let them flee my mind. 

No comments:

Post a Comment