Writing for our lives

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I’ve been meaning to mention a new forum for blogging and writing – in which ever order you prefer – by my friend and fellow writer, Christina Houen.

Christina is a terrific writer and one of those wonderful souls who can combine depth of understanding with accessibility when it comes to explorations of the autobiographical.

Please visit her new writing forum Writing Lives where she invites us all into a conversation about writing, the type of writing that blogging encourages, the type of writing that recognises our human need to speak and be heard, the type of writing that offers an illusion of immortality in a world from which we will all one day disappear.

I don’t mean this to sound grim, but I’m taken with Christina’s quote from Foucault in a recent comment to me:

“Writing is the gesture of a dying man [or woman], and to write ‘is to be forced to march through enemy territory, in the very area where loss prevails….The writer is a dying man who is trying to speak.’ His, or her, desire is to survive beyond death through the attention of those who read the story.”

So let’s get writing.

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26 Comments on Writing for our lives

  1. Art Durkee
    July 11, 2011 at 4:07 am (6 years ago)

    I have to say, I've read a lot of Foucault and others of that ilk, and this is one instance in which I think he's full of crap. LOL Specifically, it's a really overwrought statement of the reason for writing. It doesn't have to be that life-threatening OR that life-affirming. I think it's important to take making art seriously but to NOT take ourselves seriously. Especially as people who make art. Foucault and his ilk were particularly apt to take themselves WAY too seriously.

    Making art, writing, etc., is at least half play, and not always so much a rebellion against mortality. That gives far too much credit to the Freudian idea that all art is sublimated fear-of-death—which idea itself is crap. The only people who take Freud seriously anymore are ivory-tower philosophers like, well, Foucault and his ilk. LOL

    Reply
  2. Rob-bear
    July 11, 2011 at 4:39 am (6 years ago)

    Strange. I started considering some of the issues about blog writing in my latest post on my Chrome on the Range blog.
    I'll slip over to Christina's.
    Thanks for the heads up, Elizabeth.

    Reply
  3. Glenn Ingersoll
    July 11, 2011 at 6:25 am (6 years ago)

    In some ways I think of writing as a result of a necessary biological process, like a snail's shining trail or the tunnels worms leave as they eat their way through the mud.

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth
    July 11, 2011 at 10:00 am (6 years ago)

    I agree with you about not taking ourselves too seriously, Art, but the reason I put in this quote from Foucault is that it resonates for me.

    At some level I think I write to be remembered, and to outlive my own life – if such is possible- through the written word.

    Of course, I know it's illusory but it's a comfort to me.

    And as for Freud, despite his many flaws and personal idiosyncrasies, one of which I believe was his 'arrogance', his legacy is powerful.

    I agree with you about the playful aspect of art, Art, which Freud may not have emphasized but many of those who developed his ideas did so.

    I feel odd defending Freud but I think his ideas have merit and transformed through the lens of other people's thinking they continue to be developed.

    Like you Art, I believe we must hold lightly – playfully- to theory and not treat it as gospel.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  5. aguja
    July 11, 2011 at 10:27 am (6 years ago)

    I love Glen Ingersoll's comment.

    I just have to write and always have done, but it is because I enjoy writing and that it is within me – not from any desire to survive beyond death; that could not be further from my mind, as I associate writing with living and energy.

    Reply
  6. Frances
    July 11, 2011 at 10:35 am (6 years ago)

    How you will be remembered, is surely the question, Elisabeth. Not whether. You are part of the family history: you will be remembered. For what role?
    A universal question, that we may well all ask.
    I find Foucault's quote to be histrionic.

    Reply
  7. Elisabeth
    July 11, 2011 at 10:37 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Rob Bear. I concur with your new found resolution to make the most of blogging.

    I'm up and down in this regard but most of the time I enjoy it. And I learn so much.

    I hope you find a visit to Christina's blog worthwhile.

    Reply
  8. Elisabeth
    July 11, 2011 at 11:30 am (6 years ago)

    That's a lovely way to describe writing, Glenn.

    Your reference to worm tunnels and snail trails puts me in mind of a quote from the artist, Francis Bacon, who once said:

    “Art is a method of opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object…I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of human presence and memory trace as the snail leaves its slime.”

    Thanks, Glenn.

    Reply
  9. Art Durkee
    July 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm (6 years ago)

    I like the Francis Bacon comment much more, actually.

    i understand how what Foucault (and Freud) said might resonate. That's certainly valid, and I don't mean to deny that. However, I've found Jung and others (Abraham Maslow, Norman O. Brown, etc.) to have gone much further than Freud did in his ideas about what motivates art. Freud never got past the idea that art is sublimation, a compensation for neuroses. Well, that certainly can be true—but it's never ALL of the story, and never the only reason why art is made. Freud's major flaw was, as you say, his arrogance—which is forgiveable because he was a pioneer and he needed to be that strong-willed in order to get anyone to listen to him. But now, 100 years or more later, Freud's explanations and theories are rather overly simplistic and narrow in their field.

    I can say for myself, and for my sister who is also an artist, and for many other artists I know, that the only "necessary reason" to make art is to make art. Self-expression is one aspect of that, of course, but there are other aspects, too.

    For me, posterity and being remembered don't matter much to me, for the simple reason that I can't control that. If I am famous after I am dead, that does me no good just now. LOL If I can make a living doing what I love to do, in other words make a living from me creativity, that's enough for me. Posterity and legacy can take care of themselves. So I don't think about them very often.

    Reply
  10. rosaria
    July 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm (6 years ago)

    Interesting. I think I'll visit her.

    Reply
  11. Linda
    July 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm (6 years ago)

    I simply write for validation, to work out a puzzle, or to share what's happening — in the present.
    Nothing lofty from here. 🙂

    Reply
  12. Kirk
    July 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm (6 years ago)

    The Foucault quote resonated with me, too. I'll check Christina's blog out.

    Reply
  13. susan t. landry
    July 11, 2011 at 10:46 pm (6 years ago)

    thank you, elisabeth. i visited your friend, and stuck a toe in the water…i am intrigued!

    Reply
  14. Elisabeth
    July 12, 2011 at 10:04 am (6 years ago)

    How different we all are, Art.

    I have a quote somewhere from Margaret Atwood where she lists at least seventy two reasons why people write. I'm sure there are more and I suspect the same can be said of why people make art.

    I can understand your preference for Jung et al. You're not alone here. It is interesting the different origins of these men and how much their origins may have influenced their respective perspectives.

    Thanks again, Art.

    Reply
  15. Elisabeth
    July 12, 2011 at 10:06 am (6 years ago)

    I'm glad you're taking a look at Christina's blog, Pat, Rosaria, Linda, Kirk and Susan. I hope you find it meaningful and worthwhile.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  16. Elisabeth
    July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am (6 years ago)

    I'm very pleased to see you here, Aguja. Given you enjoyed Glenn's comment here, you might also have enjoyed Francis Bacon's words. They're worth repeating: “Art is a method of opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object…I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of human presence and memory trace as the snail leaves its slime.”
    Thanks, Aguja.

    Reply
  17. Elisabeth
    July 12, 2011 at 10:12 am (6 years ago)

    That's the first time I've heard Foucault's words described as 'histrionic', Frances, but I think I can see why you might say this.

    To me it rests largely in the interpretation. Words are such funny creatures, especially when reproduced on line.

    Thanks, Frances.

    Reply
  18. Mim
    July 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm (6 years ago)

    There's also something to be said for comedy: light or dark.

    Reply
  19. Elisabeth
    July 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks Robert. I hope you enjoy Christina's blog.

    Reply
  20. Elisabeth
    July 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm (6 years ago)

    As for comedy, Mim, I agree with you it helps whether it's light or dark.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  21. Phoenix
    July 15, 2011 at 12:18 am (6 years ago)

    The quote resonates with me as well, Elisabeth. "Writing is the gesture of a dying man" is beautiful and it encompasses much more than just a physical death. Who hasn't been spurred to write when there's an emotional death, when we are grieving over change in our lives, in any form? Writing doesn't have to be life or death, but it expresses our emotions that many things FEEL like life or death – and so it gives us an outlet, and a place to go, and reside safely.

    Thank you for sharing, Elisabeth.

    Reply
  22. Elisabeth
    July 19, 2011 at 11:38 am (6 years ago)

    As you say, Phoenix – tracy, grief is a great motivator. For me it's one of the things that most inspires me to write, namely grief and rage. And sometimes just plain awe and love.

    Thanks, Tracy.

    Reply
  23. Christine
    July 29, 2011 at 5:13 am (6 years ago)

    It's been awhile since I turned my mind to writing and the reasons to do so. At present I am writing to restore my self. I like the idea of writing as play or as something that occurs in the space between the inner and outer self. It feels that way to me

    Reply
  24. Christina Houen
    September 5, 2015 at 9:45 pm (2 years ago)

    All these years later, Elisabeth, I’ve just read this blog; I don’t know why I missed it before. And it embarrasses me to say this, but you know what? The quote is not from Foucault, it’s from de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. I don’t think Foucault would have said anything quite as mystical as this, though he could be very enigmatic. I still find it true, but would struggle to explain it, except that I think all art is a struggle with loss and death. And to go back to a much more ancient quote, ars longa, vita brevis.

    Reply

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