22/ Writing Beyond the Academy

5/ George Saunders: what writers really do when they write

101 Words – 099

Post number 99, almost at the end, time for a little reflection: The majority of these notes have been written (and published) using the device that I have enjoyed the most out of all the computers I have used over the past few years – my iPad Air 2. Light, quiet, portable – home to some of my favourite apps: Drafts, iA Writer, Paper, Tweetbot, Transmit. It seems to ‘get out of my way’ more than my Mac does. And with the split screen possibilities, keyboard shortcuts, and “trackpad” now available in iOS 9, more of a pleasure to use than ever before.

101 Words – 088

The exercise of writing these notes every day is in part an exercise in getting more in touch with what it is that is actually going on in my mind. An attempt to identify what it is my thoughts are milling around (over and above navigating the events of the day). That may seem trivial, but when it comes to putting thought-fields into words can sometimes turn out to require some degree of effort.

Attempting to draw something is a great way of getting to see aspects of it one would normally brush over. The same with thoughts and words.

101 Words – 074

Sitting down to coffee at the breakfast table this morning, my chair, having shown no previous signs of weakness, splintered into pieces and sent me tumbling to the floor. Life has its surprises. Suddenly you’re on your back in what seemed to be the safest of environments.

What I was sitting down to was my daily arts festival. The Bad Blog of Musick covering the shifting (quick)sands of the Donaueschingen new music scene: Entertainment, media. IRCAM. Orchestral music. Then and now. Finding ways out of the “dystopia of freedom”.

Also some fine thoughts from Matt Gemmell on sharing your words.

101 Words – 060

A tale of two books:

Craig Mod, in his inimitable style, writes of his return, after years around the Kindle, to the physical book. Valuable insights on the still closed land of ebooks, and a cautionary note on how precisely the advantages of digital volumes have been sadly neglected.

From another angle, Thomas Basbøll gets enthusiastic about leaving the frames offered by the physical structure of the book behind:

Writing stops being “between covers”. Every page takes up a position equidistant to the reality it is a part of. A book is a thing. A site, by contrast, is a place.

101 Words – 035

Yesterday, thinking about Cage and Feldman’s particular talent for conversation, it also occured to me that it was after the ‘Radio Happenings’ that Feldman, with the exception of his substantial Crippled Symmetry essay (1981), no longer wrote about music (even making a statement to that effect), preferring rather to talk, at length, as a way of both sharing and exploring his thoughts. And talking about something for two hours in a somewhat public way is of course what we have today with podcasts. Feldman’s talks (performances really) were fortunately recorded and transcribed, making available the insights of those last two decades.

101 Words – 023

Once again I start writing without knowing what I’m going to write about. And when you don’t know what to write about you write about not knowing what to write about. Of course there are a thousand things to write about, but the mind somehow says that there is nothing. Or at least nothing worth sharing right now.

Speaking of the mind knowing itself I noticed in my twitter feed that it’s John Locke’s birthday today. That was via Brainpickings. I sometimes wonder about the value of dipping into a philosopher in that way – without the full context of Western philosophy.

101 Words – 014

This evening on the way home, while waiting for a pizza, I had a few minutes to grab a much needed espresso and make a 3-minute sketch. Nothing fancy, just a quick record of those moments. I thought I’d give writing a text in the same manner a go. Not too many edits or rearrangements – just a letting the words flow and accepting the (imperfect) shapes that arise. There’s something to the directness of it that provides a pleasure of its own.

Now, later in the evening, red lights from a distant tower wink at me through my workroom window.

101 Words – 008

Does the physical comfort of how we write affect the style of what we write? That was the question put by an article I read this morning. “If I had the right chair, I’d be like Mozart”, Morton Feldman once quipped. I’ve been wondering whether part of the reason that I’ve gotten more into writing texts over the last few years is that I have highly polished writing tools at my disposal (Drafts and iA Writer) that are a pleasure to use. The software available for music notation isn’t anywhere close yet, although I have found some recent inspiration in Paper.