I write for my own ears. I’ve said that before, but it matters to me more than you can guess. I can defend that proposition from a lot of different directions, but the words themselves say what I most want said:
I put words together in ways that sound pleasing to my own mind’s ear.
I like to revisit things I have written, not alone because I like to hear how the words are holding up. I am accountable for my past self in every conceivable way, but I am accountable to myself, when I have written, in this way: I want to tell the truth beautifully.
The truth matters most, of course, but I understand far more than ever I have written down. When I am writing, I want to accompany my arguments with a music of the mind, one tone after the next, leading to a catharsis — art.
This is so funny to me — everything about my life is funny to me — but I want to talk about the hairiest, scariest, deepest philosophical issues, and I want to do it in such a way that the words never stop ringing in my ears.
Your ears, too? Good on ya. Your mind? So much the better. But the truth is I don’t care if you stay or go. In the third place, this is not therapy, not for you and most especially not for me. In the second place, I’m happy to help you live a better life if I can, but I refuse to love your self more than you do. But in the first place, this is mine. I do this for my own reasons, not for any of yours, and there is nothing you can take from me because there is nothing of mine you control.
That’s funny, too. I write almost nowhere but at BloodhoundBlog, lately, but when I do show up elsewhere, some cheesewit has to rear himself up in performance, to establish his bona fides with the herd as a first-class follower: “Greg Swann, I think you’re a boring writer!” Neener, neener, neener.
Now that’s stupid in too many ways to list, but the worst part of it is that the tiny mind thrusting this paper dagger always seems to regard it as a killing blow. Perhaps it is with other people. Perhaps that’s the cheesewit’s own deepest fear, a stark terror of being criticized by random amateurs. That kind of shot is fun in its own way — any mail is fanmail — but it matters nothing at all to me.
Here’s why: I know I’m a good writer. I don’t need you to confirm this fact, and there is nothing you can say in contradiction that will change my opinion. I have been a good writer since I was very young, and I have gotten progressively better over the years.
This is not boasting. One of the things I can see, when I revisit books or stories or poems or essays that I have written in the past, is how much better my writing has gotten over the years. Does that make me good by some arbitrary standard of quality? Don’t know and don’t care. I write well today, and it is my hope that I will write even better tomorrow. I don’t measure my own work against anyone else’s — not against giants of literature or philosophy and certainly not against semi-anonymous hecklers — but I love it for what it is.
I’m happy to share the things I have written with you, if you find value in them. But my gifts do not oblige me to you in any way. It is absurd for anyone to think that I can be held hostage to a bad opinion — for all I know, a faked bad opinion — of work that I already know is the best that I can do.
There’s more, though: I know that the things I have written over the years are not just good reads, I know they’re good news, too: I am showing you snapshots of a completely new universe, the polar opposite of the universe you have been trapped in your entire life.
I know that’s what I’m doing, but it’s plausible to me that you don’t. That’s important for a couple of reasons.
First, I need to explicate the nature of that universe. You will see me saying, from time to time, “It’s all one thing.” Surely you can put together the world as I see it from my many, many snapshots. But for my own sake I want to develop and defend this argument in full before I die.
And second, that strategy, taking these issues on only in little snapshot-sized doses, is ultimately just an excuse for me to do a little work where I should be doing a lot. Still worse, that tactic, working too small, is itself the wicker cover on a snake-basket full of fears, aversions, qualms, caveats and other artifacts of a fastidious faux-intellectual gentility: I want this work done, but in very many ways I don’t want to do it.
Even that has nothing to do with you, except as a secondary consequence, but I’m making an effort to peel away the veils behind my style of working.
The fact that I don’t care if you read me or not — if you learn anything or don’t — that fact is not a valid reason to dismiss what I have to say. But I’m going to say the things I have to say in public, and I want to be completely transparent about the thinking behind my expression of my thoughts.
Am I too arrogant? That’s another reason to dismiss me, to be addressed later. Could it be that I’m completely nuts? Still another vain dismissal. Here’s the reality of my life, a standard I have always found to be reliable: You read this far. You can try to dismiss me with expressions of outsized scorn, but we both know I am in your head already. You can’t shout me down. My words will ring on in your ears forever.
I have a brand new way of understanding the universe and humanity’s place in it. No one has ever made these arguments before, to my knowledge, in all of human history. That much is wonderful news, and I believe I know how to report that news — in a way that is pleasing to my ears if not to yours.
I’m going to tell the truth beautifully. If you profit by this, I’m glad. If not, dang. If you don’t think it’s the truth, work it out yourself. If you don’t think it’s beautiful, double-dang. But if you’re just casting about for a reason to dismiss me: I can deliver.
But this is mine. You can share in it, but only on my terms: You can’t start it, you can’t stop it, you can’t control it in any way at all. You can hear these words forever, ringing on in your mind’s ear. But you can only hear them because I made them and shared them with you. They are mine to make, mine to share, mine to withhold if I choose. And no matter what, you will never hear them as I hear them — as I heard them first in my own mind, before a word was written.
It’s all one thing, even this. I can’t do this for you — neither as a pitch-hitter for your brain nor as a sacrifice to the gods of stolid indolence. I can only do this for me. If you can dance with me, that’s cool. If not, dang. But I don’t care either way. I’ll get where I’m going with you or without you.