Writing and reading as placemaking
Each of us is reponsible for what we say—the tone and the intent as well as the prosaic content—and each of us is also responsible for what we pay attention to. We shape the world both by what we say and what we listen to.
Each of us is responsible for what we say—the tone and the intent as well as the prosaic content—and each of us is also responsible for what we listen to. The internet makes vivid the complex interplay between decisions individual persons make about their voices and the decisions others make about what to pay attention to, and the sort of places that result. On the internet, sites that get traffic grow and are imitated, while those that get no traffic dwindle away.
The world has always worked that way. Different communities practice different virtues, have different characters, and move toward different destinies. These differences are created by the things people think and say, and the actions that follow. At the same time, the things people think and say are influenced by what the community around them seems to approve or disapprove.
What we pay attention to grows. What we ignore dwindles. It’s how we make worlds.
I think it would be good if writing teachers kept pointing out to young people that through what we write about (and talk about and think about) we are constantly participating in a process of self-creation, that the outcome of this process is not predetermined (we are free), and that the outcome matters a lot (things could turn out very good, but they could also turn out very, very bad).
These are practices that lead to the sorts of places I prefer:
1. Be honest (rather than merely fashionable).
2. Be accurate (reality is fabulous).
3. Be nice (most people are tender and many mistakes they make can safely be ignored).
4. Be cautious about revealing intimate details (there are bad people out there).
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