Our Metaphors are Destined to Fail Us

I’m walking around with my head in the clouds thinking about Lindsey’s comment all day.  She says:

I know, I know! But I have publish-lust. And a fondness for traditional publishing media (fiction novels). (You perhaps aren’t quite as starry-eyed as I am because of your proximity to the industry. But I dunno.) My problem is I want to write a full-length novel SO BADLY, but I — in typical procrastinating fashion — dick around with the blog instead. And while it’s fun and hones some writing skills, I’m afraid I’m going to let it prevent me from making that leap, because blogging is comfortable and easy and so much faster than writing a novel. I don’t blame the blog; I blame myself for not being serious about what I want and just DOING IT.

It’s about discipline and what I need to do to get what I want.

I’m glad you think what I write is important work. There are times when it feels important to me. But other times, I feel like I’m sort of screaming into a wind tunnel. It leaves me exhausted and I feel like I’m not even sure what has happened.

Then again, the act of blogging is being defined as we speak. I suppose I can’t expect it to make perfect sense to me right away.

Damn you, Slate!!

And there’s just so much important stuff to get at.  I’m not sure where to start.  I, too, have a great fondness for traditional publishing media.  Is there anything as great as that new book smell?  All ink and pulp and possibility?  But I also know that everyone in traditional publishing looks at the internet as some scary, yet intriguing, place they can’t figure out how to make work for them.
Some do better than others.  Let’s look at Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s The Anxiety of Obsolescence.  Take a good look at it.  It will be a traditional book.  It’s also out here on the web.  More importantly, for our discussion, it’s on the web using a blogging framework.  See?  It’s a Word Press template.  You navigate through the book much like you navigate through a blog.  People can leave comments–though they haven’t yet (in part because the site is just up and also, I would venture, in part because leaving comments to someone like me is one thing, leaving comments to an AUTHOR is quite another.   That tickles me.  And that will change.).  There’s space for discussion.  There’s room and a way for the author to revise what she’s written based on the discussion that might take place on the booksite (?).
But what blows my mind about this is that what this shows me is that our understanding of what a book is–when you see it like this–could radically shift.
You might say that a book is a finite blog devoted to the exploration of one subject.
See, Lindsey is right.  The act of blogging is being defined as we speak, but so is the act of writing, so is the very act of making a book.  It’s all up in the air.  It’s kind of exciting.
What will an author look like?  I mean, think of us here.  I write, you read, you respond, others respond to your responses, I jump in.  I think of Tiny Cat Pants as "mine" in a sense, but, in a way, it’s more than that.  It’s a community of sorts.
But what’s even wilder is what Fitzpatrick seems to be hinting around at on her own blog: is there a way to blur the line between writer, reader, and responder even further?  What if there were a group of people, let’s use us, who decided to write a finite blog about a topic near to all our hearts, let’s say the boob freckle?
Everyone could write and everyone could revise what everyone else wrote and we could fight about it and invite in boob freckle experts to review our work and point us in the direction of other kinds of revisions and further research.
Would that work?  What does it mean to be an author in the face of that kind of radical shift in authority over the written word?
I read a manuscript once that a friend sent me, that he thought wasn’t very good, though there were flashes of greatness, but he wrote it at a much different point in his life, and he was kind of done with it.  There are a lot of people out there who never get that far.  They never write anything.  But maybe they are skilled revisionists or remixers or whatever we might end up calling them, but they don’t know it, because no such person exists.  But what if my friend could turn his manuscript over to a revisionist or a small group of revisionists?  Would that revitalize the work?  More importantly, would it revitalize the work for him? And, if so, would he also then become a revisionist on his own text?
I do not know.  I truly don’t.
But I’m excited about the possibilities.

3 thoughts on “Our Metaphors are Destined to Fail Us

  1. I’m excited too. (And also a little drunk. Forgive any typos.)I guess I’m just trying to hedge my bets in case this blogging thing turns out to be a fad or a fluke, you know?OK, I don’t know either. But I’m glad we’re both thinking about it. Us and everyone else, I guess. :)

  2. Hi! New around here, but I love this post because you so totally get the wild possibilities of writing and authorship in new media.BTW, what you describe in the "what if everyone could write and everyone could revise" paragraph sounds an awful lot like a wiki.

  3. Krista, ha! This is why they don’t leave me in charge of the internet. It totally is a wiki. Yesterday, when I was writing, I was thinking, "it’d be like a wiki, but different," but the more I think about it, the more I can’t for the life of me see how. I mean, what a wiki is isn’t set in stone, so how could something be like it, but different?The thing I like about Fitzpatrick’s book–and the thing I think is important for all of us writers, paid or not, to remember–is that setting up print in opposition to online or popular media is just one of an endless number of dichotomies one could come up with and it’s not any more or less valid than any other story we tell ourselves. And, Fitzpatrick is saying, too, that we need to consider who benefits from this belief that "in print" is real writing or constitutes real scholarship and other types of media don’t.That’s what struck me as so funny about the Slate article–"I’m quitting blogging so I can be a real writer and have my work appear in real places, like this online magazine." I mean, how many people three years ago, even, wouldn’t have considered Slate to be a real publication? But if you need to prove that you’re a "real" writer and not just a blogger, Slate has to be a "real" magazine, doesn’t it?Anyway, glad you’re here. Hope you enjoy it.Lindsey, hurray for drunk posting, I say!

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