After a week in which I conducted a two 2-hour sessions, during which I did most of the speaking, and both of which were based on my own writing and research – expanding out into, and expanded by the writers, artists and other forms of research that inform and inspire my own research and writing – it seems worthwhile to reflect on the complex relationship between writing, thinking, speaking and reading.
In my last two posts I talked briefly about the way in which we find ourselves writing for the voice, but that is only a variant on writing for the page perhaps. What is also apparent here is that when we are writing we are unavoidably writing ‘for’ i.e. writing has a reason (‘for’ which we are writing), but writing is also an implicit address, a comunication. It always has an implied, imagined or assumed audience (‘for’ whom we are writing).
And this, despte the fact, that we write, or tend to write alone, marking out on paper or screen, one side of a conversation, writing to an empty room or an empty page that doesn’t seem to respond.
And yet, as we write, we often correct, change, rephrase, just as we might do in a live conversation, and this seems to imply that we know, or imagine we know, someone, or the kind of someone to and for whom we are writing.
It may also mean that writing and speaking are not tolerably distinguishable. Like so many caetgorised objects, events and activities, they in fact exist ‘one in the other’ and occupy a liminal space between any would-be strict or definite categorisation.
As we write, and as we speak, our thoughts are not simply translated or copied from immaterial pulses into words, no, something more reciprocal is always occuring. The acts of writing and speaking also form our thoughts and inform our thoughts as we speak and as we write.
Thus, though we may conduct a live conversation with other people, or write our ideas in apparent isolation, we are yet also and always involved in a ‘conversation’ between reading, writing, thinking and speaking temselves.
But is there any single word for this complex and conjoined activity?
Surprisingly, none comes to mind.
As for reading, it may at first appear to be the ‘other side’ of writing’s conversation, in which we have become the imagined listener, the audience, the respondent that the writer had somewhere in mind when they wrote. But again, reading is far more than that, as we clearly read in many different ways as well, crucially, in subjective ways.
The act of reading, as well as being a kind of decoding of symbols is, often and also, a constant critical engagement, a series of agreements and disagrements or ambivalent responses to the ideas a text transmits, and to the way in which it is written.
Whether I lecture or conduct a seminar, write or read a lecture, or a book, I seem to be involved in a, or one, or the same field of ovelapping and interelated activities (writing, speaking, reading and thinking) for which we have not yet found a name, and never any singular or distinct activity.
For many, this ‘field’ seems demanding, taxing, even tiresome, but it is of course -for myself and many others of course – also a source of excitement, pleasure, a creative and constructive field, with all the challenges and rewards asssociated with more ‘glamorous’ activities such as what I now tend to call ‘studio art’.
There is of course an ‘art’ of writing, speaking, reading and thinking, and, like any other art, it is something which can inspire a lifelong passion and a lifelong commitment and sense of aspiration, invoving challenge, obstacles, adventures and achievements.
And yet, I still can’t think of a word that encompasses all of this activity, or the special way in which these activities are combined.