Rendered Fat Content


Joseph Pennell: Coal Mining Town (19th-20th century)

" … necessary effort …"

Writing works as a relatively self-contained and self-satisfying occupation because it's typically accomplished in near-perfect isolation. Just the writer and his thoughts bleeding out onto the keyboard, a tightly contained system. Publishing adds exponential complexity to writing's simplicity, to the point that writing might seem almost beside any point. The writer leaves the moment to live in anticipation of some future. He writes for an audience then and loses some connection to the familiar small, almost silent voices which had previously guided his hand. He gains the questionable gift of self-awareness, stage presence, and management obligations to engage in FeedingSystems.

That printed page proves insufficient to share and must be duplicated, packaged, and shipped somewhere, somehow, and all that requires systems.
Coordinating these becomes a preoccupation, for it enters the writer's awareness even before he sits down to start writing. He starts living in the future rather than purely in his present, with his presence. His imagination stretches into some far-distant scenarios where logistics will have most certainly mattered. His presence, his present, becomes indentured to those futures and to those systems he creates to service them. His emotions, his feelings, become relatively irrelevant when he's interacting with his systems, for they can't feel, and so they cannot really care. They don't exist anywhere except in our writer's imagination, anyway.

He starts living by imperative rather than by his well-practiced intuition. It never really mattered before if he had no stinking clue just where he was going, for he was here. Where else mattered? Once the future catches an eye, there's no telling what anyone might find themself focusing upon. He takes to keeping a schedule with appointments. He maintains relationships. His reach might start to seem more important than his grasp. His systems become inexorably insatiable. They will never not demand his tribute. He becomes their keeper. What about the content, he wonders? What is it about writing that distribution seems to find so disquieting?

I seem to be learning about more than merely Publishing. I'm studying compartmentalization, too, the arcane skill that strategically separates church and state, the product from the sales team, the inspiration from the distribution, for these pairs could never peacefully cohabitate anywhere, or so it seems from here. I remember shutting off those parts of myself too filled with passion or promise to display in public, how I used to dress up as if donning armor to deflect assaults and protect my passion when I went to work, how I'd show up to engage in FeedingSystems which never once ever acknowledged my presence. My systems seem no more appreciative, for they're incapable of emotion. They are machines, mere means of passing meaning but without much meaning themselves. Much of Publishing, unlike most of writing, involves FeedingSystems. I won't argue that those systems are evil, just that they're different, mammon complicating focus. It's necessary effort if my writing's ever going to become a book.

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