Monday, April 2, 2012

Writing Sucks the Life Out of Us

So I hate vampires.  It’s a thing.  No—really.  I don’t watch movies with vampires in them, not even if they sparkle.  Especially not when they sparkle.  Actually—I’ve only ever liked one vampire in this lifetime.  The Count.  Featured in his glory in the video below:

Actually, I suppose if you count Count Blah from Greg The Bunny, perhaps I like two vampires....Nevertheless..

So, I was quite surprised to find vampires show up in Flusser’s Does Writing Have a Future.  But they’re in there.  And…apparently…they are in this blog too.  Turns out, they’re everywhere.

Flusser says, “In their battle against the spoken language, characters of the alphabet (which are basically nothing but dead letters, invented to spin the magical promise of myth out into lines) suck the life of the language up into themselves:  letters are vampires" (Kindle Location 542). 

Letters—these trusted friends I’ve had my whole life.  Vampires?  Yikes.  Apparently the Count wasn’t the only Vampire featured on the average episode of Sesame Street.

As much as I hate vampires, I really dig this metaphor.  It creates this image of the alphabet drawing strength only from its ability to tap into the life of live language. It shows us that the alphabet that we so put our trust in is nothing without the life force of language that we breathe into it when we write.  I like it.

Vampire written upside-down with red on the tops of the M's to resemble bloody fangs
Image Source:  Awesomenator
What’s more, Flusser metaphor of vampiric letters also explains the taxing nature that the writer goes through when he or she takes to the task of writing.  He claims:

“The writer presses the letters, these dead marks, against the living body of the language so that they can suck life out, and lo and behold: these vampires take on an eventful life of their own under his fingers. No wonder he swoons, feeling his life energies have been spent” (Kindle Location 525). 

I think if we believe this metaphor to really capture the heart of what transpires when an author takes to writing then it helps to understand why writing can be such a painful process.  After all—those letters have to suck the life of language from some place.  That place, in the writer’s case, is from the writer his or herself. 


Flusser, Vilem. Does Writing Have a FutureMinneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Kindle Edition.

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