Almost Writing

About six years ago, a question occurred to me. Is blogging even writing? To use a familiar distinction in its pre-deconstructed form, is blogging more like writing or speaking? After deconstruction, of course, this question doesn’t come up, but on most days I am utterly beholden to the metaphysics of presence and worried about writing, if you will, “proper” — or, as the English say, properly worried about writing. The future of writing is online. Is online writing even writing? I worry.

The issue turns on the famous displacements of the subjects of writing in time and place. The meaning of the text is produced by the difference and deferment of the words. Even the word “subject” is ambiguous here since it can refer to both the subject that is writing and the topic being written about. The important thing about writing, it seems to me, is that, while it is going on, the subject (the “I”) of the text is utterly alone. Explicitly so. Excruciatingly so. The reader is implicit, imaginary. In an important sense, the reader is a “fantasy” of the writer. (“Imagine having readers!” the author sighs.) The loneliness of the writer — what we may call, borrowing a line from Virginia Woolf, “the loneliness that is the truth of things” — is eventually to be shared with the reader. But first it must be suffered alone. And, here’s the thing: in the moment of writing, it seems it could last forever.

Blogging, I want to say, is different. As I write these words I know my suffering will stop. I’ve decided to post this before 8:00 AM. (Let’s see if I find the courage.) It’s not really writing. I’m not deferring the meaning of my words — not for very long — I will give them to my reader presently, immediately. Almost. Blogging almost isn’t writing. Or is it almost writing?

2 thoughts on “Almost Writing

  1. Where and when does the “writing” happen? Say you’re Milton and dictate your words. To what extent were they pre-written in his head, rewritten when read back? Or say you’re not quite of Milton’s standard but also offer your words to a possibly critical but sympathetic amanuensis. In fact, which of his works did Chaplin “write” himself and how? Silents, talkies, autobiographies… music…?

    1. This is an excellent issue to raise. Tomorrow’s post will be about an extreme case of “dictation”.

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