It was Plato who made the case in his
dialogue Phaedrus that the directionless sense of written word is as absurd as talking to one’s self. Plato noted that language was dialogue-driven in its nature, and criticized the art of writing for going against this core characteristic. He warned of the limits with which writing was ridden and discouraged its nonsensical use.
That was 360 B.C. according to my Evolution of Media professor, and this is mother-loving 2015. I will talk to myself all I want, if that’s what writing is, despite the pretensions of one praised philosopher. In fact, I will confidently acknowledge that talking to myself may be exactly what I enjoy most. After all, people crazy don’t know they’re people.
That’s an inside joke. With myself.
It seems rather true, that writing parallels my tendency to talk to myself. The ideas that flow freely from my solitude are the same about which I ramble on paper, or WordPress, though usually crafted a little more carefully and often diluted with self-censorship. I think this talking-to-myself precipice is precisely why I feel such hefty hesitation about shoving my essays, explanations, and explorations beneath the reading glasses of another. It’s very much like asking someone to walk in on your conversation with the mirror.
Think about when words begin to fall from your oracle uncontrolled and to an absent listener. Most don’t even notice the noises pouring out without permission. Whether it’s a fictional conversation conjured up out of apprehension or a simply sighed criticism of something in sight… everyone talks to themselves. As a child, hiding in closets and corners to pop out at my unsuspecting sister taught me well that we all talk to walls. And anyone caught in their conversations with self instinctively and immediately…blushes. At the very least. Megan usually screamed. First in fright. Then at me.
So if embarrassment is the emotion with which we face those who discover our lonely dialogues, why would writing warrant any other response? It’s vulnerable. It’s like lending someone the earphones to listen in on your mental track. It’s voluntarily vomiting up your unqualified input on another person’s pair of shoes, and pretending you don’t need to apologize. So why do writers write? And why do I write?
I suppose this apprehension is the same in any art form. A musician must feel so naked, creating sounds from their soul, solely to be critiqued. An abstract painter projects all his passion into an indigestible piece of work that a large part of the population will pick up and put down with pretension and confusion. It isn’t any news that art invites exposure, or rather, requires it. It’s a hard thing for humans to have happen to them. Cue historically-patterned alcohol and drug-dependencies.
Is writing an art form? I suppose it can be. In some sort of half-assed, overly-romanticized, Heming-way. Smirk. I’m not going to get into the infinitely circular argument of what is art and what is not. No, not going there today.
You know who I think are the coolest kind of artists? Furniture designers. They are the free ones who have figured out how to infuse functionality with self-expression. And that, is badass.
So I’m learning to accept that the reception of my readable contributions to the world will vary in a very unsettling way, and that talking to myself in the presence of the public is essentially my chosen trade. I’ll lounge in the La-Z Boy of shamelessly self-directed discussion and get comfortable. Potential humiliation is wonderful practice for a lifetime of creativity. Next time my friend bails on me for errand day and I suddenly hear myself telling the Target shower accessories how I feel about them aloud, I’ll sigh and say “You dedicated writer you.”
And perhaps it’s the case that I write because I don’t know how to do anything cooler. Some teach. Some fly planes. Some save lives. I talk. It’s an unflattering form of describing my career-to-be, but…
La dee dah.