Trying to Be a Person

“When I first met Don DeLillo, he was making the case that if we ever stop having fiction writers it will mean we’ve given up on the concept of the individual person. We will only be a crowd. And so it seems to me that the writer’s responsibility nowadays is very basic: to continue to try to be a person, not merely a member of a crowd. (Of course, the place where the crowd is forming now is largely electronic.) This is a primary assignment for anyone setting up to be and remain a writer now. So even as I spend half my day on the Internet—doing email, buying plane tickets, ordering stuff online, looking at bird pictures, all of it—I personally need to be careful to restrict my access. I need to make sure I still have a private self. Because the private self is where my writing comes from. The more I’m pulled out of that, the more I simply become another loudspeaker for what already exists. As a writer, I’m trying to pay attention to the stuff the people aren’t paying attention to. I’m trying to monitor my own soul as carefully as I can and find ways to express what I find there.”

Jonathan Franzen
“Jonathan Franzen on the 19th-Century Writer Behind His Internet Skepticism,” by Joe Fassler, in The Atlantic, October 1, 2013; online here.

 

2 comments to trying to be a person

  • Grace,

    I’ve been reading your posts for a little bit but I felt compelled to write you about this. This totally spoke to my heart and my spirit. I’m in the midst of change and this blog post is one of the themes on my mind. Receiving this post lets me know that I’m on the right track and I’m making the right decision, regarding “unplugging” A LOT more. Thanks so much!

    • Thank you, Terr. It helps me to know you are in a similar place regarding this issue. I’ve been unplugging so much lately from some things that I almost don’t recognize myself … and yet … what I’m doing instead, and the track I’m on feels so right that I’m trying to stay in a place of trust about it all. This quote from Franzen helped me a lot, too.