Just Who am I Writing For?

A trip HusbandHave I lost my way?  Have I found my way?  Am I busy being born instead of busy dying, to quote Bob Dylan?  A constant reader commented the other day I was a “softie” under my crusty exterior.  I had written a post about my wife and I rescuing an abandoned kitten.  How mushy is that?  And, I’ve been writing posts about joining in on clean-up projects promoted by a young boy in Florida, and worrying over the fate of people from the other side of the world…people I wouldn’t even know of without this social media connection I’ve fostered.

Where did my inner curmudgeon go?

Have I pawned all my angst, anger and attitude off on the Philosopher Red/alter-ego I seem to use more and more often for dirty work?

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading an old Kurt Vonnegut interview published in Playboy magazine in the early 1970s, post-Slaughterhouse Five, and he answered a question posed by the interviewer about why he writes with this:

Writers are specialized cells doing whatever we do, and we’re expressions of the entire society – just as the sensory cells of your body as a whole.  And when a society is in great danger, we’re likely to sound the alarms.”  Later in the interview he answers further questioning by saying that artist’s work reflects the society they are a part of, and if they’re good at their work, they offer comforting lies to make people feel good about being alive.

Sometimes I think I should be sounding the alarm.  I agree with megalomaniac dictators like Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler that artists should serve their state…I just disagree with them as to how I should serve my state.  But, to do this I need to define my state, just who it is I’m writing for.  I know the most common answer from artists is they create for themselves and the audience can buy the ticket and take the ride, or they can go jump in a volcano…but their work is still affecting their society, even if they reject that society and any approval from that society.  A question I used to pose to students…a writing prompt –

“What does ‘America’ mean?  Is it a geographical area…rivers and mountains and deserts and seashores?  Is it the people who live within those borders?  Is it an idea, started by a gang of rich Virginia planters and Massachusetts importer/exporters and interpreted by succeeding generations to fit their times and fashion?  When you pledge allegiance to the Flag, what does that piece of cloth symbolize?”

I got about as many answers as I had students, and none of them made much sense.  The one know-it-all I had write a screed about Communism’s faults and Democracy’s superiority…I told him he was comparing a method of organizing the commercial life of a group of people with a political one and he should sober up if he was going to preach.  The ones who answered it’s the American people…I asked them exactly who they were including: crack dealers…robber baron CEOs…lazy cretins who live off SSI or other taxpayer-supported programs intended for the truly needy, or people they perceived to be very much like themselves.  I wanted an answer for myself as much as I wanted them to think about something beside “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” or “American Idol” results.

I seem to be going in several directions…or, are they connected in some manner beyond my non-inquisitive intellect?  I guess I’m flailing around for a subject to write about, and I’ve written about one.

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1...

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1980 Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just now I was having an e-mail conversation with a writer, and I told him about the little comic books I saw in Mexico called “revistas.”  They’re turned out every week, and the government gave them away for free in the Mexico City subway, thinking that people who are reading don’t commit as much crime as those who aren’t.  These “revistas” are hyper-sexual, awfully written, and the cheapest form of “low art” imaginable…but they were being used to serve the “state” in a positive way.  Goofy entertainment to reduce the chance your grandmother won’t get beat up and mugged on the way home from her $12 a day job cleaning rich people’s toilets.

Big Joe Stalin, Benny Mussolini, Uncle Adolf, and The Dylan would all probably spit on revistas if they even thought it worth their while.


Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie (Photo credit: Robert of Fairfax)

But I’m still at an impasse…do I serve my “state” better by promoting small, feel-good posts that make readers go, “Awwww…” or do I dredge up heavy-handed, loaded, and brain-straining issues that are not – and have never been – manageable to the average reader?  I think I’ll just shut up until someone more intelligent than I offers some sort of answer…or write for these three gals.



33 thoughts on “Just Who am I Writing For?

  1. I love this post of yours! You ask (and answer) so many question I’ve been struggling with too. You remind me of something I read by Bertolt Brecht, his essay about the difficulty of writing about the truth. For an artist to tell the truth, Brecht said, he or she needed:

    1. courage to write the truth
    2. the keenness to recognize the truth
    3. the skill to manipulate the truth as a weapon
    4. the judgment to select those in whose hands the truth will be effective
    5. the cunning to spread the truth among many

    For the most part the moment, it seems to me, 90% of artists who feel compelled to “speak the truth” (whatever that means to them) are very good at points 1 and 2 and then completely fail at 3,4 and 5. It’s why political poetry, say, tends to be less art and more preaching. Blogging is wonderful, I do it every day and am very proud of what I create, but the Internet is a gated community and only those who have the money and time to participate in it can benefit from the wisdom within. In a world were 3/4 of the population don’t even know where their next meal is to be found it’s hard to take blog activists as seriously as they take themselves. This isn’t to say blogs and social media don’t serve their roles and play important parts for those who use them (we create families here, we make friends and fall in love and get a chance to send our desires and dreams out to an audience of like-minded people), but the Internet is still an echo chamber (granted, a very large echo chamber) and I think a lot of us forget that. In the end the Internet as a tool for spreading truth will never be the solution to Brecht’s five difficulties since those who need the truth the most have no access to it if we keep it on-line. Cheers!

    • coyotero2112 says:

      This comment just glimmers…just fuckiing glimmers. Do you mind if I use this in a post about comments and bloggers I follow who are brilliant, get little recognition, and don’t care about it enough to stop? I was going to do a piece about inventing some new gods, but I’d like to do something like this like right now. Well?

  2. mrs fringe says:

    I’m all for balance, a mix of glimpses into the person behind the blogging persona, blog as vehicle for social commentary, outlet for creativity, opportunity for wider discussions.

    Fiction is the narrative of our society, this I believe.

    I blog for me, and I’m happy to have Fringelings joining me for the ride. Nothing grander, in any sense of the word.

    Now I have to go listen to some Dylan.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Pushed your Dylan button…good. My list of posts was just gettin weird…bitching rant…do-gooder…bitching rant…bitching rant…do-gooder. Lost my balance for a month or so.

      • mrs fringe says:

        Well now you’re making me think about my blogging patterns. Rant, rant, whine, nonsense, rant, whine, whine, nonsense, rant. Heh, I’m not so good at balance, am I?

        • coyotero2112 says:

          I’d say it’s very good balance, in a cat sort of way. As far as content and attitude…I think we’re very much alike, writing about whatever moves us at the moment. Impulsive? Yes. Calculated? No. Following the form recommended for a busy blog site? Definitely not. It’s like a consumer who buys a product expecting the same dish soap, dog food, or cereal inside and out jumps a jack from the box. Some people don’t dig that at all.

  3. Believe it or not, I have asked that same question of myself. Presently, I see my blog as an outlet for my creativity. It is great when people find humor, joy or inspiration from something that I do. However, I want to feel good and have fun too. I see your blog as an outlet for your creativity, feelings and thoughts. I think your writings, photos, etc. are a bunch of fun because we never know what we’re gonna get. And I think the most important thing is that YOU have to have fun too. Otherwise, what is the point?

    • coyotero2112 says:

      You’re always a voice of compassionate reason…I want to inject about 125 ccs of you in my pre-frontal cortex. Please send syringe of sanity juice. Was going to legally change my middle name to Fun, but you’ve probably already done that…which would make us MidName Cuzzins?

  4. ioniamartin says:

    I happen to like your posts, no matter which side you are coming from. Simple answer, you are writing for you. Have you heard from your poet friend today, I do hope she is well. I am always fascinated by the work you share with us that comes from her.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Don’t go anywhere…I was just composing a bit of nonsense, and you are now receiving top billing. My friend in Pakistan is probably spreading rose petals in a shrine right now…right guy won…hope they can both dodge the bullets of the ammunition and war gangs who want business as usual there.
      Thanks for the comment, as usual…addicts untie ! And dislexycs too.

      • ioniamartin says:

        She is truly a beautiful soul. I find that as I take my evening walk, I usually end up thinking of you and of her and how you have formed such a beautiful bond so many miles from one another. It gives me hope that this world can be a better place as people learn to accept one another regardless of boundaries, physical or otherwise.

  5. "HE WHO" says:

    Write what you want. Whatever moves you. We’ll take it as it comes. Just keep writing. Thanks.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Eleven readers so far. I really need to stick to 500 words or less if I want attention. I roll on the floor and howl when I don’t get that…so, here comes ten posts with cute cats, flowers and in 100 words or less.

      • "HE WHO" says:

        Ha! That isn’t you, Coyotero. I guess I have to take back my comment. I’ll have the usual, please.There are already a shitload of cute cats and flowers out there. .

        • coyotero2112 says:

          Your comments are helping kick lazy synapses into action…helping put off the onset of Alzheimer’s, I would imagine. I did my cat post…but the chances of a starving kitten showing up on my doorstep again is low, so my fifteen minutes is used up. Thanks for another indication of whom it is I write for, or with.

  6. Bizangelgirl55 says:

    I say write what you feel. You are human after all.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      I’m what? Big supposition. Probably write what I want, just wanted someone else to blame it on. The Philosopher Red. Thanks again for the comment.

  7. words4jp says:

    I say you should write whatever the hell you want to write about. If it is mushy – so what? if it goes against the grain of all mankind – so what? you are a living, breathing being with a mind and you have a right to exercise your mind in anyway you see fit – so write.

    later dude…….:)

  8. Maybe with enough introspection you’ll come to the point where you started and that you write for yourself

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Wouldn’t surprise me…writing for the state I’m in. A flag…a motto…a national animal…a tax agency to investigate myself… goodbye purposeless rambling for a week. Thanks for the comment.

  9. monosolo says:

    So many question marks. Thinking makes my head hurt.

  10. He’s Baaaaacccccckkkkkk…I knew that smushy stuff wouldn’t linger…we think, therefore we write. Let the chips fall where they may. Groupies change as often as the wind changes its course, but crusties write on because they can’t help themselves. I feel all murky again. Thank God.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Imagine you being the first to respond to this…agitator ! I had to get murky to clear the space between my ears. Clarity only encourages me. Danger Will Rodgers…Danger !

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