The Impermanence of Writing

 

dust particles
Dust particles.

      NOTHING LASTS FOREVER – so the saying goes. Although generally true, some things last longer than others; sun burn versus nuclear fallout for example… Well, what about writing? Potentially it can last centuries and millennia. Although I find it hard to imagine a future civilisation finding a 2000 year old copy of The Shining perfectly intact, unless we opt to mummify Stephen King upon his death, burying him in a custom-built tomb in Maine, the inner chambers guarded by multiple copies of his best sellers.

Writing has a shelf life, literal and other.  Something that scares me is the impermanence of writing. Every blogger knows, as soon as a poem, a story or just a post is put up, within a day, the chances of it being read decrease drastically. That’s scary. And on a grander scale it’s that same terror that strikes when thinking about releasing a book. Once it is done and out there, in a sense it becomes irrelevant until the next book. Like the big build up to a match, once it is finished, that’s it. Legend and glory have to be written once again. And again, and again. The conveyor belt doesn’t stop for anyone. So releasing a piece of writing is empty in a multitude of ways as soon as it is passed over to the public.

As a writer you get one shot with a book or story. People do not come back to it (very rarely). Writing is the most disposable of media in some respects. Music and film are easy to review, to re-listen to and re-watch requiring a different level of attention. Only the oddities re-read a book. And that’s why, somewhere deep inside, I have learned to let go of the emotional attachment. Maybe three years ago I did when before instant gratification was my downfall, but with age comes wisdom or at least some lessons learnt and although the impermananza saddens me, I’m ok with it. On to the next story. And so on. Until dust, until pixels degrade.

 

lion around 2

36 Comments

  1. Great post. We are only as good as our last book, screenplay, or post. It is the nature of being an creative artist. What makes it even toughter is the public’s forever changing tastes. I have posted poems or short stories that I thought were brilliant to only receive a luke warm response. Then other posts which I was frightened to hit the publish button have been adored.

    The only thing we can do is keep writing.

  2. I think about this from time to time as well. I am working to publish fiction, and my friends and family often frame it like, “Oooooh what if you’re the next Rowling/Stephen King/Tom Clancy?” And in reality those are so so rare. Most peoples’ books sell for a bit and then vanish! It’s sad, but a fact of life!

    1. Thanks for dropping by.
      Even the hugely successful, within generations, no one will remember a Dean Koontz thriller or James Patterson’s factory production thrillers.
      Sales don’t necessarily = longevity, but the likes of JK Rowling, King will be around for a long time.

  3. Quite an interesting thought and post. Equally worth were the discussions on the comments. Everything you said here is true, but still would we prefer to keep those words and thoughts stay unwritten? Would we be better off without expressing ourselves in words? I don’t think we would be as productive as we are now! 😊

  4. I’ve had these thoughts as well. I always get excited when I see that an old blog post got a few hits. But I think it’s just the world we live in, new is better. So many sites are in a rush to constantly post new content.

    I guess I’m one of the weirdos who re-reads books, but only my favorites 🙂

    1. It goes with the territory with blogging, but when it comes to a book release or publishing a short story that same ‘impermanence’ occurs because once it’s out there, the magic is let go of never to be put back in the bottle. It’s a strange thing.

  5. monkey in actualness like impermanence of thing & think maybe it good thing what encourage mans & ladies to make best output what maybe last around in time little bit longer than more crappy stuff before it vanish into void like everything even proton eventually.

  6. Second your thoughts on impermanence. But isn’t that true with everything? Almost everything comes with that tag. Even life. I like this post, it reflects my thoughts. Fionn 🙂

    1. Thanks Asha. And on a broader scale you’re right, everything changes, few things remain as they are. With some things that is great, but with others the fleeting presence can be a sad thing, but the world forever evolves.

      1. Yes, I like the idea around fleeting presence of things for a short term. I wonder what about the things that pass unnoticed. Some of them are the best of things. I feel that way when i read an excellent work of literature that remained uncelebrated. Or music or oils for that matter.

  7. Good points on a tribulation we all share. On the flip side, there are many instances where a writer passed on, penniless and unknown, only to be re-discovered and revered years or centuries later. At least there’s that hope. (Brief technical aside: Maybe it’s my interface, but I’m unable to click “like” on any of the comments. I may have even babbled about this before, so excuse the ring if I did, but there are some great comments on your posts, including your own responses, but I can’t express my one-click admiration for them. Thought I’d mention it…)

    1. Hmm, hopefully the like issue is temporary.
      And there are lots of artists in one form or another who have become famous after the fact – seems about the worst way for it to happen, not that they’d know. Like Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack before The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo etc were published…talk about gutting.
      And I guess classic books are one of the few to avoid literary death while all else fade around them.

  8. I get where you’re coming from but I think you are being a bit harsh on the long-term views of the written word. In my experience people re-read books all the time, this is were the idea of a ‘classic’ was born along with the idea of turning books into movies. When a person reads something they like they tend to tell others about it. Our modern day blogging is not the same thing. What we stick on our blogs isn’t actually meant to last forever.

    1. I’m still treating my blog as a museum 🙂
      I know what you mean, I wasn’t comparing blog posts to novels really, clearly they have longevity to them and like you say there is a reason they become passed on. And movies can bolster them too, I hadn’t thought of that.
      Cheers for dropping by.

  9. It is sad when you consider it’s why most of us write.
    We write to be heard, to leave our mark on the world – our stain on the internet you could say.
    I guess it’s the nature of the world today – how fast paced it is

  10. Very well said! I think to most writers this is our version of unrealized immortality. It is scary to think our efforts and goals for such, will be minimally reached. Not to be immortal to be famous, but immortal because we’ve given our hearts to the world with our writing. It’s a vulnerability to bare our pain, hurt and love for everyone with our words. The words came to life in us. We want them to live for us. Like a parent with our words as our children, we leave them as our legacy.

    1. Amazingly expressed. I think you’ve managed to capture the essence that drives many writers, and your comment reminds me of a quote that I really like: “The work in which she is most remembered is the work in which she bleeds.”

      I think the most permanent pieces of writing are the ones in which we are completely honest, completely vulnerable, the ones where we put blood, sweat, and tears into.

      1. Great quote Jade.
        And yes, our inner souls when put on paper become art on the page – not so easy to do 🙂 but the soft side when exposed is then accessible to every reader, humanity is universal.

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