Chapter 2 : More On Writing
August 6, 1998
Writing, I've said before, is an art form. But when it comes down to it, it is more importantly a form of communication. The art in it comes from it's basic value as a form of communication.

You can have an effective communication of ideas that usually is not artistic. But sometimes, a piece is so eloquently written, using slight nuances of the language to give more emotion or a stronger image to the message, that it becomes more like art.

Not that you'd go hang it up in a museum or publish it in a book of prose. But I'm talking more about the writer than what is actually being written. There are people who can simply lift you up into a world of fleeting images, entangle you in emotion, make you feel as if you are a part of an experience, through the use of their words.

Well, yeah, duh. We all knew that. But how does this pertain to anything that is relevant to the life you lead today? Web publishing has become one of the larger past-times I've seen; 'zines, journals, poetry, and even 'interactive writing experiences.' A select few of these sites are actually run by talented artists whose command of the language draws ever-increasing attention, web surfers hitting the site multiple times a day just to see if a new selection to the journal or a story has been added.

Feedback swarms in. Compliments, critiques, both implicitly solicited simply by the fact that the author put their writing up alongside their e-mail address.

But also along come the personal questions, date proposals, requests to meet for coffee at 7:30 Friday night at Timothy's on Water and South Williams. Why? What possesses someone to think, based on reading someone's work that they should be friends, or they are soulmates meeting across the free-flowing eletrons of cyber-space?

The obvious answer, of course, is that there are many lonely people out there. People disaffected from society that have found solace in the 'net, its ability to link you instantly to anyone else in the world, and the vast amount of personal attachment that is possible to achieve through reading someone's bio, rants and raves. "Someone I can identify with!" goes up the cry. "They will understand me! They must be looking for the same thing as I!"

Far be it for me to counter this argument and call it false. I would be deceiving myself if I did so. But there is another answer. Not everyone who becomes wrapped up in the 'glamour' of a highly praised site and it's owner fits this mold.

The talent of a writer to pull someone into their mind, swim them around, and have them breathe the ideas drawn in the written words may be the main cause of this phenomenon that at times begins to border on stalking. I've had tales told of site creators having 'fans' call them at home, show up at their work, or even home without invite, being tracked down through unknown means.

So is it the writer's fault? Of course not. As far as the writer goes, it becomes an indication that they do hold a type of power of people through their words; that they can express and wrap people in emotion.

The rest of the puzzle I would like to blame on the society of the Internet, it's focus on anonymity, and the resulting freedom people feel. The irony being that most people surrender their anonymity, and instead provide that shield to their readers.

But is it really the Internet? Is it instead an issue with society as a whole where life on the 'outside' has degraded so much to a point that people are now trying to find peace, solace, and the new utopian commune through this contrived vehicle of communication masquerading as a community? In some ways, are people trying to escape their lives that have become trite in the face of the new media past-time of sensationalism into this nascent reality that is not so socially structured or ruled.

And, so new to a society, they know no one, each page they turn is someone new to meet. And in comes the writer with script of gold and a pen that can stab directly into your heart. And they are struck. Here is the person that knows me, more than anyone else in that 'other' reality where my husband/wife/children/friends just don't understand me. But this person, here, does, and I can contact them directly.

So should writers stop writing? Should the Internet 'community' close up shop and write (excuse the pun) the experience off as another utopian communal living experiment gone bad?

Perhaps it is all just growing pains. Maybe as a new generation grows up intertwining 'real life' (for lack of a better term) with this new reality, one will affect the other, and people will begin to say hello to strangers on the street again, tipping their hat, and wishing eachother good day while online people may begin to respect another person's privacy and have the realization that a published story does not mean that a writer is inviting the reader into their life, but simply saying "hello" to the strangers on the street.

Time may tell. But the true shaper of the Internet will remain the writer. The writer that can express what the reader is feeling better than the reader understands their own feelings. That is what makes a writer an artist.

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