On the Other as Audience


Hello everyone!

It’s only been a few days since I last posted, but it feels like a strangely long time. I gave myself permission to stay silent for long stretches this year, only to find out that I’ve misunderstood a large part of why it is that I actually write.

The thing is, I always believed I wrote on Peripateia largely for self-aggrandizement. After all, a blog is a public thing, and as my friend J. once pointed out to me using very different words, there’s writing for public consumption (presumably with intentions of being widely noticed, read and understood) and there’s writing for private consumption (presumably with intentions of chronicling one’s inner life or history). While blogs have massively blurred—if not effaced—the lines between both classes of writing, I’ve always thought that it requires a certain…narcissism to choose to air one’s private concerns in the public sphere.

The last few days of creative abstinence have made me realize, however, that there are advantages in blog writing besides those favored by the narcissistic. The notion of the other as audience, and the implicit understanding that one can be misunderstood, is what helps to a large degree in turning writing into a craft. There must be discipline—observance of the conventions of form and genre and adherence to chosen formats and techniques—if one’s intention is communication to and comprehension by the other. Of course, one can write for the self as other, in which case either of two things can happen: (1) the quality of writing wanes (e.g., the bullet-pointed entries so common in personal diaries and journals: “lunch with J.,” “grocery shopping at S.,” “baby shower at L.’s”…), or (2) the supposed self assumes all the qualities of the truly alien other.

In hindsight, much of Peripateia has been about writing to myself as mediated through others. Yes, the desire for self-aggrandizement is there, but it’s not as important as I thought it was. A lot of the writing has been about using the subconscious recognition that the work can be received by others (majority of whom remain unknown) to carefully articulate thoughts that would have remained inchoate in the complacency of self-understanding. Thanks to that recognition, there is far greater awareness—and just as importantly, an awareness embedded in writing and collective memory.

In short, I’m probably not going to stay as silent this year as I thought I would. And because I really do have a narcissistic side to this reflective personality, I hope you’ll stick around as I make my noise.

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