The nature of words

I don’t blog because I’m a serial sharer (I’m not), nor to boost my ego or to show-off. There’s not something particularly I want to share with the world, no great message I’m looking to communicate with a missionary zeal, and nothing I’m looking to sell. Whether it’s just one person or a thousand who read what I write is of no great accord to me. I write because I have an active mind, and because I love words. The written word is my medium, much more so than the spoken word, as anyone who has met me will attest. I don’t write to blog, I blog to write, and this is just one outlet of the thousands of words that mill and combine in me every hour of every day. They must get out, must get expressed. This blog is simply a product of that activity, and only one of several.

This last fortnight has been an interesting insight into that process. Being offline has blocked me from this outlet, but in the rough and tumble of moving from one place to another, with a temporary stop in between, means that I’ve hardly had my fingers on a keypad. Even when I moved into my new home, the internet still pending, I couldn’t simply boot up the PC and begin typing because I’d lost the power cord somewhere between there and here. That’s been rectified now, and I’m now online, but in that brief space of time I had regressed to an earlier phase of technology I had forgotten about and left far behind. I felt lost.

Don’t get me wrong. I walk around with a bunch of notebooks which I’ll scrawl random thoughts and observations as I pass through the world. I’ll sit in a cafe and record something I see; or else I’ll be waiting for someone and as my mind wanders find there is something it fixes on that I need to make a note of. These are all sorts of things, from the deeply personal, to stuff to do with the business (including business ideas). I write then, sometimes, in the old fashioned way, but it’s not the same. I’m practically the worst typist in the world, but there is something about typing that brings order and shape to these things. I might start out writing something in some organic form, but eventually I’ll want to transcribe it, and much more, onto the screen, where I can edit, index and save it. Up till now and for the last fortnight that has been blocked to me.

It’s curious to observe how I coped with that. There was a sense of frustration, but also wonder. I found that without the usual outlet that my many thoughts went further than before. I am accustomed to see something, thinking something, packaging it up in my head, then producing it on the page. There is a form of synthesis involved, the many strands ultimately joining into one intertwined strand. A few hundred words later you have a developed view ready for the world to see.

I don’t know if it can really be any other way for such a medium as this, but is the world really like that? Clearly not. I may make an attempt to sum up a position in less than a thousand words, but life as we know it is a lot messier than that. The posts in themselves may be a brave attempt to bring order, neat and well developed as they might be. A truer reflection of reality may be better gleaned from a reading of a blog like this as a whole, whereby posts of different nature, attitude, perspective and subject matter sit side by side without any real logic. That’s what life is like, isn’t it?

I know there are times I contradict myself within the space of a few months, and I think generally these posts should be viewed less as the finished product than as conjectures, and projections. You flash a light into the dark hoping to illuminate something, and as your eyes catch you scramble to write what you will even as the light fades. Flash the light somewhere else and something else comes to view. The sense of a blog like this is not in the individual posts, but rather in the journey they chart.

But I digress. Without this outlet for the last couple of weeks those things that might have been turned into posts here have been allowed to run on in my head. Unable to commit then to cyberspace, and unconfined by a word count, they have meandered off in their own way, joining with others sometimes, sometimes splitting off.

Writing a post sometimes is akin to charting the streams and creeks and tributaries as they become the main river: the central thesis. The reverse has happened in my mind. Without the boundary to confine them my thoughts have gone further, beyond the river, and to the fragmented, many faceted estuary beyond. It has been a refreshing experience, and a good reminder that nothing is simple, nor final.

Observing this got me thinking about the act of putting words on page. I don’t know if other people have the same experience as me, but I find something definite occurs in my headspace as soon as I have made that commitment.

People learn in different ways. Some people need to make notes, others simply listen. They receive and absorb things in their individual way. I’m a listener. I might occasionally make a quick note as a prompt, but, by and large, I’ll sit and listen and absorb. I’ll let the magic happen in my head, and then I’ll sit down to transcribe it, as they say, in my own words. The theory is that then it’s mine.

Strangely the opposite happens when I come to write down my memories. I’ll have things bobbing about in my head for years, vivid as the day they happened. One day then I’ll choose to record it for posterity, and from that day forward I gradually lose it in my head. Once the memory has been committed to paper it’s almost as if the mind knows that it needn’t hold on to it so tightly, and gives it away.

It’s a strange distinction between the two. On the one hand the act of writing embeds something; on the other it lets it go. Strange to consider the mechanics involved with that. It suggests a sub-conscious intelligence that orders and manages and prioritises. I guess it must be, each of us only has so much space, and just this much RAM – and so decisions must be made as to what goes where, and the taxonomies that apply to it.

There is another process I’ve observed over the years. This year I sent messages to people – women – I had once been close to. In the one instance it was something I had thought about for a long time, but held back from. When I did send her the message it was simply to say hi; there was no motive as such, no desire to rekindle something that had long died out. More than anything it was an acknowledgement both of what had happened and of the time that had passed since: all cool. The other was different in that I tried to act with common sense (I think) and decency. I claimed nothing, sought nothing, just hoped for some clarity.

I was not surprised when I received no response, particularly to the first. Too much water had flowed under the bridge, and I understood that completely. I didn’t feel bad or sad or even regretful. I hardly dwelt on it at all. I had acted.

Nobody wants to live with regrets, but they’re hard to avoid sometimes. The worse regrets concern the things you didn’t do and should have, or, at least, might have. To live with those doubts about how things might have been different is very hard, and for that reason I’ve long concluded that if you wonder if you should act or not then the answer almost always is that you should. Say yes. You might fuck it up, as I have repeatedly, but it might be the difference to. In this case nothing came of it, but nothing was lost either. Importantly, I had scratched that itch.

So what’s happened from that? I compose my words and send them out into the ether. Whether they are ever received or read I don’t know, but clicking on the send button is the key act. It’s too frivolous to suggest that by doing it I wash my hands of the situation, but that process has begun. For a reasonable period the mind suspends that part of itself, waiting. At some point the mind thinks, well that’s not going to happen. And, as it seems to me, the mind then files those things away, shifting them from the everyday day memory to a deep place shrouded in cobwebs.

That is what happened now, and on previous occasions. I have done what I could, without result. I have tested a proposition and got my answer. The act of writing, the act of acting, has re-categorised the memories and feelings I had. I still have fond thoughts if I’m pushed to it, but I rarely am now, unlike before. Something has changed in me between the before when I didn’t know, and the now when I do. It’s a curious, and wise, chemistry.

Words written commit you to a position, whether good or bad, and the act of doing it processes the things behind the words from one place, to another. That’s the difference between thinking and writing. Thoughts are fluid, often capricious, occasionally irrational. Putting thoughts on paper doesn’t guarantee they’ll be rational, but it locks them into position. I guess that means we ought to get them right.

Writing about H

English: Old Reading road Not too clear but wa...

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been given cause to revisit much that I had previously posted to this blog, going all the way back to the start. The catalyst for this has been a person far from here who has cottoned onto this site and has been reading it with an almost obsessive zeal. I watch, bemused, as the stats wrack up. Occasionally I’ll get a message from the person about one particular post or another, to which I’ll politely respond. I’m curious and also fatalistic. I don’t know what they’ll find or what they’ll think, but that is no real cause for concern. In a way this blog puts me on the public record, and I can’t expunge what I’ve already committed to writing, and have no desire to censor the story – erratic I’m sure – that is occasionally presented. It is me after all, for good or bad.

While I have watched this feat of reading I have myself occasionally clicked on some of the links from a sense of curiosity and occasional nostalgia. I find myself reading wondering how other people take this in. I am always writing for myself – but how does the audience receive what are often quite self-indulgent posts? Gradually as I read I find that curiosity recede. In place of it I find myself recalling moments that had slipped from me. I read things and surprise myself now realising that while often enigmatic, my words frequently have the veneer of deeply considered wisdom. If only!

It’s probably not the done thing, but I find myself appreciating the man who could think and feel so deeply before attempting to transcribe those thouse thoughts and feelings for the world. Much of what I wrote may be mysteries to others – I am coy often, and archly reticent – but even if I have forgotten some of the people I refer to, the sense of what I write is always clear to me.

As I read I recall the different stages of my life the posts reflect. Unlike any reader who stumbles across my blog, I have the benefit of complete context – I lived it after all. And so as I read I recall the moments and the incidents that prompted me to write. I remember the things about it, often incidental, which go unreported here. You get the high notes here, but in my mind and my memory I can still recall the tune whole, the slow movements as well as the dramatic.

Reading again gives me context on the present also. I realise, or remember, that I have experienced most things at least once before. The good things you never forget, and the bad – often forgotten – you’ve obviously found a way to survive. That’s a reassuring note. We all know when trouble looms how overwhelming it can seem, so inescapable in fact. There’s no guarantees of anything – even escape – but given you’ve done it before countless times, have taken on adversity time and again and survived, there is sense of perspective and confidence. She’ll be right.

Reading back too it seems to me that my blog is a mix of things I’ve reported externally – from politics to movie reviews to commentary on my travels; and, more significantly, reports on my internal movements, the things I think, I feel, the torturous road I’ve followed. It’s very clear in re-reading that I’m strongly heterosexual, motivated by a combination of powerfully insistent lust, all the way through to a tender romanticism that makes the present day H blush. There’s a lot about women here.

I don’t know what it says about me, but the things I’ve forgotten are often incidental contacts, some of which appeared to be far more at the time. As an exercise the other night I lay in bed and tried to figure out how many women I’d had sex with in the last 12 months. It was a figure I found myself revising by the moment, recalling banal and insignificant encounters that had faded to the back of my mind: sometimes sex is only that. In another year I’ll have forgotten some of those encounters altogether. You remember what is important, the rest drifts away.

I thought that this morning as I woke up. I had dreamt overnight of a girl I used to work with and like. We still have some incidental contact via Facebook. You know how it is sometimes you feel surprise at the events unveiled? So it was in this dream with the girl making a b-line to me in a public forum and making it clear she wanted to be with me. Ok then, fair enough – she’s cute after all.

I thought of the dream and then thought how many times have I had such a dream and written of it here – or even not bothered to write of? Likewise moments when I’ve met with, or flirted, or even bedded some woman? It’s just normal, just life, just another small blip on the radar. Ultimately this is what this blog has become: it charts a journey, the small things, the big things, the sorrow and joy, the angst and desire, failures and successes, the map that has led me from there to here, and ahead a road uncharted but surely to be described.

Subject and perspective

George Orwell once wrote a famous essay entitled Why I Write. In it he explained the path that led him to becoming a writer, and in a typically clear-headed way went on to describe what he felt were the main reasons that anyone chooses to write. It’s a fine essay and contains much more than I have been able to summarise here.

I’m not a writer like Orwell, nor, as yet, like anyone else you can name. My writings are limited to these erratic scribblings and to the stories that fester in my head before being put down on paper and locked up in my bottom drawer. For me it is largely a surreptitious act, though central to who I am. I don’t set out to write; I write as an outcome of how I live.

Last night as I watched TV my mind wandered of its own accord and took up some of the more recent issues in my life. I probably had a mental grizzle about one thing or another. Shortly my thoughts turned to my thought processes themselves: how I think, and why. It sounds convoluted, like staring into the myriad reflections of facing mirrors – but there’s more. Looking between depthless reflections led me to understand why I write. Between the observed and the observer, subject and perspective, is the mental world I live in. It’s neither a gift nor a particular talent, no more so than Orwell when he describes how he came to write, and why.

I write because I am such a receptive subject. Though I generally segregate the different things happening in my life – to an unreasonable degree often – that doesn’t prevent me from feeling to the fullest extent. I think I am a rare beast. Though I’m heavily rational and intellectually driven I am more in touch with my feelings than most, and plumb the extremes more fully. What I feel is like the changing weather, sunny sometimes, stormy at other times, and in all variations between, and I feel directly as the sun on my skin.

That might normally make me volatile and unpredictable, when in fact I am safe and reliable – much more so than the average Joe. Whether it is by temperament or because I have trained myself the segregation controls things in much the same way the partitions in the hull of the Titanic were supposed to make it unsinkable. I suppose I run the same risk as the Titanic of running into an iceberg that will upset everything, but who doesn’t? So far, by and large, it’s worked fine.

It’s that combination of – qualities? – that make me a writer. I have the insight to understand the psychology and emotional ructions because I have experienced them myself; but I am rational enough that even in the deepest turmoil I can view the ructions with a curious detachment. I think too much, but can’t help it. It is as natural to me as it is for a bird to fly.

This is the experience I carry with me. Having been there and done that I know what it’s like; and knowing that I see more, am more perceptive I think and aware of the deep running currents in others. I find myself as a result often intrigued and led on by my curiosity that then transfigures my imagination. What is left unknown is supplemented by my fantastic speculations.

These are the ingredients for writing. In the end I feel compelled to record some reflection of this onto paper. Much as I enjoy the result it is often hard work – yet it feels something I must do. As I have said many times before, I write to explain the infinite variety of experience and feeling to myself. The act of writing weighs up those experiences and imposes some order upon them: my rational self seeks to explain what I have seen and felt and experienced.  It is a personal journey that plays out in the pages of my stories, refractions of what I know in words that ultimately lead back to me.

Many writers claim to write for themselves, which is something I completely agree with. My stories may never see the light of day and will be no less important for that.
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