The unwriteable

WHEN you have philosophized for all you are worth, when every thought path seems to lead to the same idiotic conundrum, then all that is left is the writing: writing about philosophy, the act of philosophizing, about writing, about 'writing about philosophy', 'writing about writing', etc. etc.
     Reflection is good, reflexivity is a danger and sometimes a curse. Ourobouros — the image of a snake eating its own tail.
     What is writing? A philosophical question.
     Don't say 'words on a page' because that would include shopping lists, dictionaries, court transcripts, etc.
     Writing is just what writers do. For the writer, writing is the normal state, like breathing. In that case, failing to write — the exception rather than the rule — is the thing we have to try to understand.
     There's a scene early on in the 1998 movie Croupier where would-be author Jack Manfred, following the advice of his successful publisher friend, is trying to write a soccer novel. Trying, and failing.
     Jack is attempting to write the unwriteable. That's the point the script writer is making in this witty scene. Jack ponders various possible titles for a novel about the beautiful game with 'lots of sex, big money transfers, etc.' — an idea so preposterously clichéd that no author who was not brain dead would even attempt it. But poor Jack is desperate for success, willing to consider any proposal.
     This is the moment when Jack sees clearly, and perhaps for the first time, that in order to write he must have an idea that is writeable. We, the audience, get our first glimpse of the kind of writer Jack is. He's not a hack, and never could be.
      Jack takes a job at a London casino and finds his topic: his life as a croupier. (By the end of the movie, he has learned 'the truth about himself, that he was a one book writer, a one time winner who had quit while he was ahead.')
     In academic philosophy today, hack writing has become an industry. Publishers want something that sells, and, eager to please, would be authors scramble for the bait. So we have endless numbers of books philosophizing about pop culture, or dumbed down for Philosophy 101 reading lists. — Good luck to you, if you can squeeze yourself into that mould.
     To find out whether an idea is writeable, try writing it and see what happens. Maybe you think that you would just know, without making the attempt, that Jack's would-be soccer novel is unwriteable. Bully for you. But what that supposed knowledge actually consists in, is an inner rehearsal, where you imagine what it would be like to write on that topic and recoil in horror at the thought.
     Then again, what is unwriteable for Jack might yet be writeable by someone of different skills or sensibilities. What is, or is not a cliché is in the eye of the critic or writer.
     All a hack writer needs is a recipe.
     There's always irony to fall back on, if you can't see any other way to do it. (Irony has had a bad press recently. It has to be subtle, to be any good. And then people don't get it.)
     Philosophy is a different case.
     In philosophy, you have to write, there is no alternative. If all you can write is rubbish, if you hate very word you put down on the page, then that shows something about your state of mind, no less than if your writing is perfect, and every word a jewel.
     In philosophy, there are no dead ends. Do you think you've discovered an insoluble conundrum? Are you sure? Then prove it. Can't you see your way ahead? are you lost in a fog? Then feel your way. Forget what others would think of this, or who might be reading your words. This is for you, and only for you.
     For the philosopher, nothing is unwriteable.