I’ve always written, although there have been long fallow periods. It has always felt important to write. Reading leads to writing; if you do enough of it and you’re lucky you can’t help beginning to feel the pressure of words wanting to come out. Even then, though, you need to feel that you are writing to someone. Who that might be is not something we need to pin down. Almost any answer to this question could suffice. For me, at critical points along the way, the answer was that I was writing to a friend far away.
Growing up in a “tourist destination,” on “my” beach, I’ve always had close friends who lived far away. I’ve always had to deal with wanting to be with people I could only spend time with briefly between long breaks apart. Always felt the pressure of looking far away for those who would help me to feel at home….
Being first generation American and having most of my family thousands of miles away, available only every few years when we’d make a family visit to Portugal was also a big part of it.
Writing meant writing letters. Mostly in the breach, since as a young person I rarely wrote anyone. “Write something!” The nagging entreaty whenever my mother was getting a letter or a card ready to post. My mind would go blank at the mere suggestion.
Still, the connection was there. It took many years, but by my mid-thirties I’d begun some mammoth correspondences. Pages and pages, handwritten, and then stuffed into business-size envelopes. Extra stamps for air mail….
This habit lead directly to my first book; the only real-book-available-in-stores book I’ve managed, Designer & Client. A collection of correspondence with eight “clients,” chosen for their experience with the type of boat I was designing for them. A designer’s correspondence.
Since then I’ve discovered that fiction is itself a kind of correspondence. The various characters that arise have things to say, stories to tell, and as a writer of fiction we are setting down this correspondence and attempting to shape it in various ways.
Essays have always been a form of correspondence. The form has flourished whenever thoughts needed to be shared across distances of time and place. It was easy for me to see blogging in this light. It was a way to send messages in a bottle, tossing them into a sea of SEOs, hoping someone might find them….
Correspondence. The key is right there in the term. It describes the relationship writing is intended to support in an effort to maintain a co-response with an-other over time. We write, giving freely of our time and efforts, wanting to share our experiences. We then await a response. The relationship requires a return sharing. A response followed by another and another. The whole relationship unfolding over time as a shared experience.
Correspondence requires that we seek something more than information from what we read. It is an entering into relatio. Its means exist, and its ends are met, over time. Time accumulating between missives as well as the time spent writing and reading what’s been sent. The connection not limited to a transference of data. How something is said. The links building over time. The habits of expression that only come into focus over time. The holes as well as the hills…. A correspondence connects us across distance and it also connects us through time. Duration. And then, after the fact the accumulated correspondence itself just might carry the particulars of this relationship on into alien times beyond our own.
Correspondence requires a trustworthy postal system. We need to feel that what we write will arrive at its destination intact. To survive, it also needs to be cared for and archived as an artifact. Letters posted in mailboxes and read and then kept in a favorite drawer just might, for all their fragility, survive us. They could be rediscovered. Bound editions end up in libraries….
We still don’t recognize how vanishingly ephemeral our digital world really is.
“The Cloud is just somebody else’s hard-drive!”
A warning we still find difficult to heed.
As events unfold, our expectations of “forever” keep diminishing. We’re more and more willing to hope that some sort of stability might last…, a few more years? A few more months…? I don’t think anyone still expects their online presence to outlive them. Seeking a literal Eternity in the digital domain is a pathetic fantasy for broken souls.
So, why this glimmer of enthusiasm over another “new start!?”
In part because we always need to rekindle our enthusiasm for connection when it has faded. We need to remember that nothing is permanent and all we have are moments and inklings of connection at best. And only if we make the effort.
News of Twitter’s sea-change only heightens our need to find reliable ways of maintaining connection. Along with remembering that we need something more than just an app to peruse,scrolling down an endless feed of non sequiturs and click-bait. When we begin to feel that even this appears to us a lost “golden age,” it’s time to raise our expectations and work at creating longer, stronger, and more meaningful connections.
So, here we are.
Getting underway…, again.
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