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by Alonzo
Rated: E · Monologue · Experience · #2080566
Writing as a psychological malady
A History of Obsession
Ken Shelton
Saturday 09 September 2006

I suppose someone reading these entries, and those hidden away in manuscript boxes and collecting dust on publishers’ desks, might think: schizophrenic, bi-polar, or manic-depressive. A lot of high-sounding words to describe something we all are on paper- or in everyday living, if we were as honest with each other as we are on paper. Honesty is easy when you know your crime is hidden behind a pseudonym, or that your crime will not be discovered until you are dead. If then.

I have a theory: the sex drive exists not just as a biological urge to procreate as a form of immortality, but is bound up in the need to have something of ourselves live on. Sex and the creative urge are manifestations of the same phenomena. In the absence of sex as a creative drive, one dies. Or writes. Or paints.

At this moment there are hordes of people scribbling the day’s events and their thoughts about the daily grind. They are hunched over keyboards and writing tablets where they dream of saying something that matters; something that will give a distant reader or a surviving relative pause to consider that a living being wrote those words in a past that has come to be quaint and fore-ordained.

On occasion I hear on television or radio a reading of a personal account of a battle, disaster, or turning point in the writer’s life, and I’m inevitably taken aback by the scholastic, impersonal tone of the reader. Pain and suffering, starvation and deprivation, grief and loneliness, are read as interesting historical footnotes. When does the past die? At what moment does the past cease to arouse emotions? The stories of the horrors of 911 can still cause intense responses, but the impact of Belleau Wood has faded with the passing of each veteran or observer of that struggle, until we can no longer relate to its grotesquerie.

The answer: at the moment of a new birth following the event. Within minutes of the last American soldier's airlift from the rooftops of Saigon a new life was born out of that chaos, but with no memory of it. With the passing of veterans and observers of those tumultuous and anarchic times dies the experience of their reality. They become interesting historical footnotes.

Around the world millions of men, women and children toil away at reams of paper in the hope that they will be the one to remain relevant past their time. They write, too, with the full knowledge that they hold themselves up to ridicule, but they write anyway. They can’t not write. They could levitate themselves above your rooftop sooner than they could allow a sheet of virgin paper to go unadorned.

From those monkish efforts does come great literature- even from a publishing industry that seems at times to be at odds with great literature. As sure as the rising sun, Tom Robbins will come to be seen as the product of genius; Carol Shields will be studied as a template for style; ; Kevin Donohue for a new mythology; Stephen Wright and Sara Dunant for breathing life into the dead past; and John Kennedy Toole for the absurdity of taking ourselves seriously. If a publishing environment narrowly focused on commercial viability can produce works of such caliber, what amazing products there must be stashed on closet shelves, tucked away in notebooks, or concealed by the din of the Internet.

To those authors I can only give encouragement. Writers write. That’s what they do. They share in a magnificent obsession, and do not possess the ability to not write.
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