As I wrote my commission for Wakefield Litfest last year, Wakelost Wakefound, I found myself writing more and more on screen.
I don’t just mean on the computer, I mean in WordPress, pushing Update and rereading on the site, then going back into Edit Page to work the text, updating and rereading, then back to Edit. I found it impossible to write this piece in the normal way I would write, offline.
I had no idea why this was and it runs counter to the advice I usually give writers and bloggers, Give yourself a cooling off time, write then leave it and only publish online when you are happy you are finished. Or as finished as you’ll ever be.
It was something in The New Yorker that made me think of this again, from an article I read yesterday by Larissa McFarquar, on Aaron Swartz [Requiem for a Dream, The New Yorker, 11.3.13]
“Prose creates a strong illusion of presence – so strong that it is difficult to destroy it. It is hard to remember that you are reading and not hearing. The illusion is stronger when the prose is online, partly because you are aware that it might be altered or redacted at any moment – the writer may be online too, as you read it.”
I had no sense of a live audience as I wrote, I had only given the url to a few trusted friends who I thought might be interested in watching the piece develop or from whom I was looking for feedback.
But thinking about all this now, I remember that there was a different physical edge to the writing, I was looking at my words in a different more tentative, more alive, more energetic space, than they would have been in Pages or Neo Office documents saved and resaved to Dropbox.
And even though I was looking at the same words, through the same piece of glass, on the same white background, I simply didn’t feel as if I knew they would work until they hung in that in-between space powered not just by the plug into my wall, but whatever energy drives the internet.
That’s my writer’s perspective, Larissa McFaquar was writing from the reader’s. You. Hello. Maybe I posted this hi moment too early, maybe I am the other side of this glass now, tinkering with this piece.
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