You write that you feel you are doing something wrong, working slowly, instead of churning out a steady stream of work. I think this is a myth of the good writer, this completely competent and disciplined writer who churns, who sits at a desk a certain number of hours a day and writes a certain amount of words. It feels so tied to capitalism and productivity, this writer who churns. Maybe you don’t churn out words! I do not churn either. Or: I churn, but it’s not always words in a computer document. That is only one stage of the writing process for me, and honestly, a pretty later stage in terms of envisioning a project. Sometimes, I think, working on writing, on a book, is trying to figure out, for you, what that means to work on writing. I often have conversations with friends who are writers about this question—what does it mean to work on writing, and why do we often feel that we are not working on writing? But I think that there are many ways you can and should work on writing—reading is writing, thinking is writing, researching is writing, walking can be writing, watching a film or seeing a work of art is writing, talking to friends is writing, doubting is writing. Perhaps the churning that needs to be done is not words on a page, but inwards. What are you thinking through? Perhaps you do not know yet, and you won’t know until you use language, and the doubt within that language, to write yourself out of this problem. And perhaps it’s never a steady stream! I think often of W.G. Sebald and what he has said about writing, that when he is working on a book, he follows after his thoughts like following a dog wandering through a field. Perhaps if you knew what you wanted to write completely, exactly what you wanted to say, it wouldn’t be worth trying to write about.
Call your soul back from the many places it has gone before noon, and also since 2004. Call it back from the relationships that stopped your own heart, and the workplaces that, when you entered them, drained the memory you had of what your own life was for. Call your soul back from all the places and occasions that you experienced: soul loss. If necessary, return in person, with a bucket, a length of hose, a pair of scissors and a syringe. "Hi, I've come to get my blood back."
Some of us (English majors) had a thing called literature, before the social internet. It was a good way to complicate the relationship between personal history and labor and self-expression. There were charming character ambiguities, lovable monsters, saints, demons; there were opportunities to fail at storytelling and to move on, relatively unsoiled. Malignant narcissism and virulent self-mythologizing could be… ignored to a greater degree. Youthful arrogance! The artist as stupid little shit. It was fine. I have three unfinished novels. They are all bad. It’s fine. Success over time was harder to tabulate, on a printed page, easier to question.
The one thing, however, I think that does need to be pointed out to people when they're talking about interactive art and the notion of something being interactive. The amount of energy that you spend, for instance, to get yourself together to go to a gallery and walk around the gallery from picture to picture is much more than the amount of energy that you spend to click from image to image on a computer screen. So that the energy that you put out to be interactive with classical texts--they are much more interactive--is greater because you have to do things to get to them that involve you in a much larger way than the way you interact with something on a computer screen.
All texts, in a sense, are hypertext. You come to a word you don't understand, so you look it up in the dictionary. You read a passage and you stop and you think about another book; you may even put it down and go get another book off your bookshelf and read something about something else. Texts are not linear. Texts are multiple and for anybody who really reads and enjoys reading, it is an interactive process.
What hypertext and the interactive material do is make that a much less energy-intensive process; as such, on the absolute scale, they are less interactive than the ones we've got now because in order to interact with the ones you've got now, you have to put out more energy. Now I think something is gained by having the interactivity require less energy. It becomes a medium in itself that's interestingly exploitable.
But not only do you limit the amount of interactivity, you also limit the places you can go. So the interactive text is not an expansion of what we've got now; it's a delimitation of what we've got now. If you read, as I was doing a couple of days ago, Walter Pater's "Plato and Platonism," I stop every two pages or less and have to go read a section from Heidegger or read a section by Derrida where he's talking about Plato. "Is that where this idea came from? Oh! Why is he using this word 'parousia'? Didn't I see this word?"
Just bear in mind that the interactivity in the new different interactive art is less energy-intensive and there are less places that you go within it. It's fascinating, and it's lots of fun, but it's not more interactive than what we had before; it's less interactive.
Voice is not some unbounded originality: it is the gradual cohesion of what one repeats. Style is formalized obsession. The move is from "that is that" to "that is me."
What ecological, social, political, or ideological problems matter most to you? Select one of these issues. What knowledge and understanding do you need in order to write about this issue? What reading communities do you want to engage in representing this issue? Try writing a story, essay, script, poem, song and so forth that tangentially, obliquely, or directly engages one of the issues on your list.
The fear of penury and making someone else feel sad are absolutely nothing compared to the feeling of looking back on twenty or thirty years of life and realizing that they were exchanged for nothing much. Let alone the most popular deathbed regret: I wish I hadn’t worked so much. I mean, think about it. One day you are going to be lying on a bed from which you will never rise, thinking about all those twelve hour days away from what you actually wanted to do. And how you can never have them back. A day of stagnation should feel like liverless Prometheus chained to the rock.
“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.”