A lot of the people who check in here I know are writers. But some are not. Some are Internet surfers who stop by—one stop in their never-ending search for something they’re looking for. The Internet is like a vast sea of information, and everyone with a computer sails out into it, setting their coordinates for one destination or another. Once they get to where they’re going, they cast their nets out, and hope they can catch that elusive thing they’re looking for.
It may be an article about some subject they want to know more about. Or a piece of music they want to hear, or a You Tube clip they want to watch, or the address of someone from their past. Everybody’s out there, tapping their keyboards, surfing the Internet. Searching. I picture millions of surfers out there, right now at this very minute, millions of people casting their nets into the information ocean, all searching for something. All hoping that the next click of the mouse they’re going to find it.
It’s the same with writers. People think that writers know more than the average person. That they have some special knowledge to impart to the world, and that’s why they write. People think most writers are experts on whatever it is they’re writing about. It may be true that a writer may have more first hand personal knowledge of a subject. Like Hemingway knew about bull fighting. And Fitzgerald knew about life among the rich. “The rich are very different from you and me.” J. D. Salinger, hermit/writer, knew the pain of adolescence and the insanity of the world and how it can drive a sensitive person insane.
They know their subjects, these writers. Ray Bradbury remembered his childhood, the good and the bad, and echoes of it can be heard in everything he ever wrote. George Orwell knew the oppression of the mind that comes with totalitarianism. Aldous Huxley saw the society of the future as a place where humans were “decanted” and the population was controlled not by brain washing, but by drugs and entertainment. These writers knew their subjects well too. Or did they?
Somehow, I wonder. Somehow, I can almost picture them sitting at their typewriters (a keyboard of an antiquated type) sailing out at the midnight hour, surfing, not into an electronic sea of data, but into the sea of their own imaginations. They felt close to their subjects, they had a feeling for it, but to find a way to express it—that was what they spent their lives trying to learn. Every sentence, every word was a search. A search that sometimes took them to some strange places–some to drink, some to suicide, some to a life with little human contact. But in each of them the need for the search was stronger than the need even to live.
They may have written about bullfights, or tragic heroes, or colonies on Mars, but those were only the visible, comprehensible forms of something deeper that they were all searching for and trying to express. But what was it really? Something they may have occasionally only glimpsed, something that always retreated back into the dark distance the closer they got to it. Whatever they wrote, whatever the final product, it never fully satisfied. Never really came close. But they tried to get it down, as best they could. That’s what a writer does.
And so you’re out there right now, sitting at your keyboard, reading these words on your computer screen. Trying to understand what it means. Trying to see if it has any meaning in particular for you. Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever it is, it’s all part of the Search.