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Would Picasso Have a Twitter Account?

In a blog post for The Guardian, Robert McCrum writes:

For new and original books to flourish, there must be privacy, even secrecy. In Time Regained, Marcel Proust expressed this perfectly. “Real books”, he wrote, “should be the offspring not of daylight and casual talk, but of darkness and silence.”

How many “real books” enjoy “darkness and silence” today? Not many. In 2010, the world of books, and the arts generally, is a bright, raucous and populist place. The internet – and blogs like this – expose everything to scrutiny and discussion. There’s a lot of self-expression, but not necessarily much creativity.

As a creative writer, I resent and disagree with McCrum’s assertions. I have shared creative work online, via my blog Laryssa Writes Fiction. In fact, I posted what amounts to a book-length work and allowed anyone who was interested access to it.

However, the real work on those stories happened offline, during long hours of solitude and intense concentration. Sure, I realize that my manuscript is not yet complete and could stand many more revisions, but I was happy to share what I had, to come out of the “darkness” and see the light.

How would I be able to write dialogue if I couldn’t observe and participate in casual talk? The best banter, the stuff of believable dialogue, occurs on social networks and via online chat tools: Twitter posts, Facebook status updates, Gchat conversations.

Trust me: when I’m working seriously on something, I deal with more than enough darkness. A person cannot sustain too much intense creative output without needing to air out the mind and wrestle with the mindlessness that sometimes is the Internet.

And what’s so bad about scrutiny and discussion? Sure, not everyone who reads your work, views your photo, or finds your piece of art may be qualified to offer you helpful criticism or be able to help you grow as an artist, but isn’t some of the point of creating art sharing it?

What’s the difference between self-expression and creativity? Shouldn’t everyone have the right to express oneself, even if the goal of self expression is not necessarily high art? Isn’t noise, chatter, and collective expression what make the world so interesting anyway? You don’t need an M.F.A. or some other fancy training to do it. What do you think?

(Photo by sudhamshu)


  1. I’m in general a little tired of the notion, (expressed somewhat in the Keillor piece you Tweeted earlier today) that writing, both the process and the presentation/marketing, has to be some all encompassing, mind numbing, borderline religious experience, either of hell or ecstasy. I wrote for a living, and I have never understood the degrees to which “older generations” of writers cling to this notion that the only way for writing to be good is to obsess over it in a dark closet somewhere, and that the only way to prove to the world it is good, is to be drug through some time consuming, spirit draining gauntlet, by one of the nebulous, faceless, mass=profit seeking publishing giants.

    That’s one way, but it isn’t the only way anymore. I’m tired of being made to feel like I am not truly “meant” to be a writer simply because I don’t crucify myself with it every day.

  2. It is a back and forth. On the one hand, the more you interact, the more your work might be published. On the other hand, the less you interact, the better your work will be. You can no longer do either/or anymore. If you want to get your work critically read by a broad audience, you have to live in both worlds. Sadly.

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