The “Author” Self.

I know precisely why I hate the idea of the archetype “writer”. I have a bit of a long running scepticism against the cultural stereotype of being a writer. I now know why I actually hate it.

The process of writing, and being a writers, is so very contrived. The process of writing and being a writer is an insular process; it is a self-absorbing action that increasingly demands interest in itself. When writing something, you draw yourself as a person into the process – you become increasingly wrought in the story as you write. In effect, the longer you spend writing, the more concerned you become with the process of writing. As you write, you mould yourself into both the writer and into the text itself, so much that you become invested in the text, and your text invests in you. Thus, the writing reflects itself upon you as you become the writer, and this writing persona is then reflected in the text. People look for the persona in the text, and draw parallels between it and the “writer”. What remains is that your real self is sidelined by the authorial identity that is constructed by the process of writing and signified in the written works.

What this means is that when you first set about writing your first piece of writing, you do so as someone who is not an author. As I’ve said before, the notion of the author is a loaded term that comes with a huge baggage train of philosophical and cultural expectations. Thus, as you begin to write (and crucially show your work to others) you move from being you, the person, to you, the author of various works. What happens is that the created “author” dimension to your person grows and becomes the dominant mode, or trait people recognise you for. The example of this de-centring of the “real self” for the “authorial self” is right here.

Let’s ask, how many of you primarily see the identity, “Words” as an authorial one? In effect, what does the name signify when you see it? What do you associate with it? For the majority, it signifies the “authorial identity”. It thus acts as a locus of created written persona that you attribute works to, and from those works you attribute traits to the idea of “Words”.

But the problem is that it is not real. It is not the real me – instead it is created by the process of writing and reading. Written actions, preserved in text create the status as a writer for “Words” but the problem is that writing has no inherent truth, as language itself is arbitrary and only referential to itself. Here’s another example of what I mean – through written works and our reading of those written works, we create the idea of the authorial self. We see J.K.Rowling first not as the person, but as a perceived experience constructed from reading her writing. We have a notion of the author, but not of the real self. Reading J.K. Rowling’s works does not bring you any understanding of the actual person.

This is the reason why writing is contrived – it is so self-absorbing that it creates an other self for the individual that writes, and it is this authorial self that comes to replace the individual.

Thus, your experience of this blog even  is one located, created and reinforced by written works – not by any personal experience from meeting me. Your expectations will be dictated by your reading – you expect that I should post some writing soon, that I should write to a certain style or subject, and you shall seek to draw in impression of personal investment in my writing.

This is the very problem with writing, and the notion of being a writer. Being a writer – I just said it then, comes to define you. It becomes the single stand-out action about that person. Thus, you no longer cease to be an individual, with multiple interests and a complex personality. Instead, you become the writer – a creation that confines you. A “writer” is a constrictive chain upon identity – it speaks of a sole activity that all your other experiences can be linked into as contributing factors to the writing, not as separate parts of your identity. Your hobbies then become means for understanding what you write, not as things you enjoy and are then expressed in your work. In short, things you do become a means to an end of writing. I do rock climbing, and to explain what I mean, if climbing were mentioned in some fiction I wrote it would not be there because I personally enjoy it. Instead, the climbing I undertake in life becomes something that contributes to what I write. In an abstract way, it functions like research. I’m doing it so I can write about it, rather than I’m writing about it because I enjoy it.

It’s this fact that writing comes to absorb your self is what I hate about the idea of being a writer. The phrase itself signifies its aim. Being a writer. It leaves no room for anything else – you are a writer. But remember, it’s also something people impress upon you. Which is why I must caution you – to go looking for “the self” in writing is pointless. We read and interpret stories in our own individual ways, so we don’t need to look for authorial guidance. Does the person who created a story have to be found within the story? No. Remember, as soon as the character’s voice begins, the author is dead.

 

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