Ken Baumann poses some questions about the nature of writing following a discussion about the ‘write-or-I-will-die-school’:

Part of me thinks the art-as-blood/obsessional/devotional/romantic behavior and self-propagating myth is more akin to religious fervor, and dangerous.

Part of me thinks the art-as-play behavior and lesser myth is not at all dangerous, and mostly a cause, or more a cause, of general happiness

I very much recognise both but don’t want to choose between two or even multiple kinds of creation.

Write or die? I mean I like the idea of writing as a form of dying. Art as capturing the impersonal inexpressible. And granted, that can be a lot to deal with for an individual artist/writer. Which is probably why so many are depressed/insane etc. But ultimately I think what matters in creating art/writing is the creation of the work, not the individual’s happiness. I mean, if someone writes only in order to be happy this will usually not coincide with the production of art of lasting interest. So then I don’t think it matters in what state of mind one works (raving, drooling, happy, etc) as long as the work gets done. Maybe sometimes it can be good to discipline yourself, maybe sometimes great writing is produced with minimal effort.
Often the work can of course also dictate the way the person writes. I am thinking, for one, of Christian Bök who insists on completely reinventing himself with each new project. For him this goes as far as learning a whole new discipline (computer language, prosody, biology, etc).
Which reminds me, Dutch writer and known enjoyer of enjoyment and intoxicating substances, Hafid Bouazza (he once asked a doctor to inject him with Ketamine) has just edited a book on (art &) pleasure, the rush. Unfortunately it is in Dutch, but maybe I’ll read it and write some bits about it. Interview with the good man here in Dutch.

2 thoughts on “Write or die

  1. is he proposing there is a choice? i thought writing just started and then continued. like lightning bolts growing into the ground to pester everything with energy.

    but yes, i do agree with you. once the book is in the hand of the reader, the state or non-state of the author becomes irrelevant. or so one would think, but i guess both the practice of self-representation and the desire within the reader for an author to become a self-representing mechanism, attributes the book with a wanted/unwanted, intended/unintended, biography. like the “hunt” for thomas pynchon attributes to the character thomas pynchon. this beside the point, but has a book ever just been a book? be it happy or dangerous (and isn’t that a bunch of papal administrative weirdness anyway? i mean, who in her right mind would attempt to conjure a list of happy vs dangerous books)?
    i find that any book can serve a purpose, as long as it doesn’t feel like a waste of time, but that will hardly hold up in a court of law.

    i see that i’ve already paraphrased the language as a virus thing at the top, so i will not try any more smart-alecky monkeybusiness other than wishing you a great day and hope you can overlook this non-sensical drudgery. off to check out more ken baumann.

    sunday best and finest, b

  2. Greetings! Thanks for the input. ‘The “hunt” for thomas pynchon attributes to the character thomas pynchon.’? Sounds intriguing.

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