I thought I’d write about writing, because I’m a writer, and you’re a writer too. No, not an aspiring writer; you write, the way you breathe or talk or think. The patterns in your soul come out, printed or not, because, as a person, you are here to talk, to be, and, most of all, when possible, to be understood.
There’s a mystique about writing, a segregating aura that prevents many from approaching it. That’s dumb. Writing is not some arcane, dead art. It is the most fundamental human interaction. Think about the degree of obsession you’ve had crafting the perfect text; in words, in length, in timing and context. That’s it right there. You’ve felt the urgency and the power of writing. You’ve got it now. Don’t sell yourself short.
Forget the exclusive pretension of art and just do it. Entertain, write, and reach. Because if you can’t share it, why do it? Understand, then, that the old classics were written as informally as they could be back in their days; they were written, thus, in the parlance of their times. If F.Scott Fitzgerald were alive today, he wouldn’t write the same. Writing is not static; it breathes and lives in the rhythm of our lives. Timeless works survive, but they are exceptions, not lessons.
If you’re still trying to copy David Foster Wallace, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Tao Lin evolved from that, naturally, in the future of our time. Stop asking what David Foster would say and ask what Tao Lin does. And then forget both of them and say it yourself.
The world does not need your impressions of what you think art should be. It needs you, just you, to do what you feel like.
Writing is about communication. It connects on two levels: the basic and the evocative. The basic is the story, the plot, the simple gist of what you’re trying to say, and the second is the art behind it. The art is using letters and words in ways that don’t occur, in ways that make sentences into music, in ways that simple letters and commas and flows make something beyond the words, some secret sentence unspoken but shared between yourself and the page.
That’s the music in it. Sentences have a sunken world, past sentience where letters sink, whisper, or else jostle and jangle about like keys and coins. It’s flow. The way Jay-Z mixes, uses his voice as an instrument and it lets you take him for granted. It’s an implicit greatness, hidden but permeating, and that’s how writing works- or at least, how it could.
Read that paragraph again. It’s not the best example of musicality, but it’s a decent attempt.
As a rule, I prefer writing with strong, simple narrators, because you find that music in their patterns almost by accident. Above, I did it by design, but it felt dishonest. It was trying, which is a step too near trying too hard, the worst writing sin except for trying too little.
So to review my take on writing: it’s about expression, implicit musicality, and the purposeful dual acts of informing and entertainment. So, where then would I suggest you find the best writers of our era?
Simple. In rap.
That’s intentionally provocative, but I mean it, more or less. Because Kanye is there for us. Kanye doesn’t need to shroud meaning. You think Kanye gives a shit about the past, so oft venerated? No sir. Because Kanye is approaching, Kanye is here, and Kanye has done it. There’s a universality in his work, in his expression, that reaches from wild heights to emotional lows and everywhere between.
So pursue that. Leave novels behind. Read less and listen more. Take your art from other places and make something new. Don’t retread the old.
Also, just do it.
It worked for Kanye. It’ll work for you.