…Culture should be nothing but a sweet rhetorical effusion , an art of using words to bear witness to a transient moistening of the soul. Yet this old romantic couple, the heart and the head, has no reality except in an imagery of vaguely Gnostic origin, in these opiate-like philosophies which have always, in the end, constituted the mainstay of strong regimes, and in which one gets rid of intellectuals by telling to run along and get on with the emotions of the ineffable.
What proves the wonderful singularity of the writer, is that during the holiday in question, which he takes alongside factory workers and shop assistants, he unlike them does not stop, if not actually working, at least producing.
from “The Writer on Holiday” by Roland Barthes in Mythologies.
I’ve thought about this constantly; how this is bred out of a desire to always be working. When I would come home from the city, I always took it as an opportunity to actually work—work on things that I care about, that I didn’t work on as much as I’d like to in New York. I will admit, that is part of the reason why I’m here now—to be in place where I can write, and also have my own apartment, and a small social life and be able to do the things that I would like to do that I would not have the ability to do in New York, because I’m scrambling just to keep a roof over my head. But yes, I’ve never felt like I’m truly on holiday and I think that’s probably why I like writing so much, that it’s something I do every day because I must and that I have to put in that level of work every day, otherwise it feels like a wasted day. It’s not a chore, and it’s not a luxury either, inevitably the thing that I’ve chosen to do is a thing that I will never stop doing and in that sense I will never stop working, because I can’t imagine anything else happening.
“…that it is quite ‘natural’ that the writer should write all the time and in all situations. First, this treats literary production as a sort of involuntary secretion, which is taboo, since it escapes human determinations: to speak more decorously, the writer is the prey of an inner god who speaks at all times, without bothering, tyrant that he is, with the holidays of his medium. Writers are on holiday, but their Muse is awake, and gives birth non-stop.”
I have two work spaces, one in Paris, the other in the country. Between them there is no common object, for nothing is ever carried back and forth. Yet these sites are identical. Why? Because the arrangement of tools (paper, pens, desk, clocks, calendars) is the same. It is the structure of the space which constitutes its identity. The private phenomenon would suffice to shed some light on structuralism: the system prevails over the very being of objects.
I wonder about this kind of thing all the time. Does the place actually change the structure of writing? Does it really change? My friend Rick said something last weekend that touches on this—that I seem more level, calmer, and focused in the things I post when I’m home. I thought about this for awhile because there is something about having an opportunity to write and create at home. Place does make a difference in that your mentality shifts. That’s really at the core of why I’m going home: I’ll be able to do what I care about up there, because the place keeps me level. Whereas here I’m like a chicken with its head cut off. Too much stimuli.
The whole of speech is epitomized in this expendability of words, in this froth ceaselessly swept onward, and speech is found only where language self-evidently functions like a devouring process which swallows only the moving crest of the words. Writing, on the contrary, is always rooted in something beyond language, it develops like a seed, not like a line, it manifests an essence and holds the threat of a secret, it is an anti-communication, it is intimidating.