He is aware that he has finally discovered how to do just that - after ten years of trying he has suddenly found the starter button on the vast dead bulldozer taking up so much space inside his head. It has started up. It is revving, revving. It is nothing pretty, this big machine. It was not made for taking pretty girls to proms. It is not a status symbol. It means business. It can knock things down. If he isn't careful, it will knock him down. -from IT, by Stephen King
Writing used to mean something.
If you were there, you know what I mean. It involved a great deal of testicular and intestinal fortitude to lay your words, your thoughts- and yourself- down on a piece of paper for other people to read or dismiss. It was a fool's gamble, but one that once taken would change your life and how you viewed the world forever.
I remember sitting down to write- in longhand- my first novel at the age of seventeen, having nothing tangible to go on save for the knowledge (however inarticulate) that I had something to say about life and the world in which we live. I wrote ten pages a day, religiously, and in forty days had 400 hand-written notebook sheets of something unworldly in my hands.
What it was, or what it meant in the grand scheme of things, I had yet to discover.
But I had an identity, now- more so than I'd had before. Writing in longhand taught me the value of the word- and the cipher of a wasted word. Editing became internal, and no ink was wasted. After a ten-day break of sorts, I sat down to a typewriter, to blast that bastard into something anyone could read. And I did. In another forty days- and I'll spare you any Biblical allegories here- I had a new manuscript in my hands. It was not a book, not yet, and it wasn't a story. It might have been a novel in the technical sense, but in the corporeal sense, it was a manuscript- and not too many seventeen year old kids had one of those.
I was not even a senior in high school. I'd never kissed a girl. I'd never done anything, really.
But I had done THIS.
THIS was twenty years ago, and change. While the book was never published and still had four years of re-writes to go through- life does indeed get in the way- something had changed in me. I had a place in the world. I observed for a higher purpose, and everything I did, everyone I knew, was simply fodder for the next one. And while it is true that books age one more so than birthdays, this book was a levelling-up that I needed- as everyone needs at such an age.
The words- while mine and somewhat derivative- were an accomplishment. The manuscript was a tangible thing. Something now existed that had not existed before, and was the cause of it. It was something I could point to and say that I had done. It was something I would do anything to get better at doing. It was a pyre upon which everything could and would be sacrificed.
Writing used to be a calling, a rather celestial one, a path in life that chose you rather than you choosing it. There was a certain impoverished nobility to the trade. Not many people pursued such a path, knowing that their finances would never recover. Reagan and the 1980's greed culture assassinated any notion of doing something simply for the good of it, for the love of it, and for the betterment of all mankind.
Now that any cretin who can find the "ON" button on a laptop can blast their screeds hither and yon at the click of a mouse, not only has the intrinsic value of the word gone down, but the quality of our thoughts themselves has devolved. Everything, it seems, is a copy of an imitation of a reference to a pastiche. Nothing is brought forth from nothing anymore.
And it makes me wonder...