Category Archives: on writing

to write

Posting this seems oh-so-ridiculous, considering the drivel that has preceded it.  Thankfully my (miniscule) audience tends to be exceedingly loving, forgiving, and strongly prejudiced in my favor.  Sometimes writing– or at least, posting!– does indeed take courage.  Even little blog posts, and especially when we are talking about ourselves.

                I write because the written word is my voice.  I am frustratingly handicapped when communicating orally and extemporaneously.  There are bright, beautiful moments when what comes out mirrors what I am trying to get across, and then there is a lot of scrabbling around for words and coming up short.  And once they come out, there is no editing.  It is impossible to erase or replace what has been said.  Of course, this is exactly what the process of writing consists of: scrabbling around for words, then erasing and replacing and rearranging until the page, paragraphs, sentences and letters metamorphose into a mirror image of that inner thought… or rather become the perfect form which carries that thought into another mind, and releases it to be realized anew.

                I also write because there is something that pushes me to create, and language is the artistic medium in which I feel most at home.  Reading certain passages from East of Eden reminds me of standing before a massive, exquisitely executed scene painting.  It is breathtaking, not so much for the story the words describe, but the way they saturate my whole being: words that have taste and texture, that burn in bright colors.  John Steinbeck spoke with his own voice, and somehow he made poetry with deliberate prose.  Jane Austen crafts her pictures so masterfully, and yet so very slyly: first, you find yourself immersed in a flood of words; then you come out again on the other side of the paragraph, and find that the meaning, the clear and sparkling thought, has insinuated itself into your head.  You see.

                 So then: for me, to write is to speak with my own voice.  To write is to craft art through the medium of language.

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“so writing takes courage”

The act of writing itself constitutes a conflict, a struggle, through which you overcome obstacles both within yourself and without.  When you write, you press out something from inside: you ex-press yourself.  Something hidden lies within you, and something about writing pulls on you.  So you press it out onto paper in the form of written words.  This written act causes you to turn outward, to take your inner self and unveil it on the page.  So writing takes courage, since, as an act of self-expression, it also exposes and reveals.  You show others something about yourself.  It makes you vulnerable– a lamb leaving tracks across the snowy page, tracks that every potential wolf may easily stalk.

–from Right Words: The Grace of Writing by Blair Adams with Joel Stein 


free writing 1/31/10

One of those spontaneous exercises called a “free writing”, written for myself and now offered up to you as a (like my opinions, apparently) half-baked substitution for a blog post.  You’re getting it in the raw today.

It’s been quite a long time since I did a free writing like this. My head has been such a jumble lately, of thoughts and ideas and half-formed opinions, that it has been impossible to communicate myself. I suppose I think I know what I think until I make a stab at communicating it, and then, poof!, it’s disappeared in ethereal fog and mist. I was realizing earlier whilst reading “Teaching Right Words” (in preparation for teaching tomorrow), that I tend to dwell too much in and on the abstract, and take too little notice of the concrete. I don’t think so much about what I’m seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting; I think about what I’m thinking, there within my little head, and may not even notice what I’m sensing. I think I need to actively work on that. I wonder how I would change. Is this a flaw? A fault? Does it matter at all? The writing exercises and instructions with which I’m concerned were about using descriptive, pictorial nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs instead of generic; painting a picture for the reader. The title was “From Abstract to Concrete”. Then again, I’m also in the midst of a litererary criticism (subtitled “An Appreciation…”) of Jane Austen, and the author makes the point that Austen doesn’t dwell too much upon description and scene-painting. She has a good balance. I, on the other hand, can floridly and facilely describe all day long, and fall flat when I have to move the plot or provide dialog or create characters that are not internally just like me. My autorial imagination extends no farther than the visual, apparently.

Do you know how many subjects for posts I could pull out of that jumbled mass of semi-associated concepts?  I should take that for my follow-up writing assignment….


Just for fun

“Writing About Nothing”

“I really do not like the frontispiece of my Sense & Sensibility.  The lady looks dowdy and complacent.”  I sat down the book and looked across to the dresser mirror which reflected back at me my own puzzled expression and dishevelled hair.  “Really, Elinor was not so silly in either respect.  I hold her in great esteem and sympathy.”  I looked at my reflection again, a vague headache pulsing from temple to temple across my forehead.  It had been a long day.

That restive yearning had been pursuing me– as I changed out laundry, tidied the kitched, searched all in a hustle for some misplaced paper of Mother’s– and it had finally caught me, as I sat cross-legged in companionable comfort with myself on the untidy bed in my quiet room.  Reading Austen always makes me feel I can give words to that restlessness, but somehow one cannot really write for long about nothing.  That is ever and always the problem standing between me and my fantasy of words piling up on words.

In thought I suddenly returned to a picture of the early afternoon, lounging in the shade, eating peaches at the end of an all-morning jaunt with a friend.  “I remember, ” she had remarked, “at twenty, thinking, ‘I really ought to get married soon, because I’m starting to have so much fun, soon I won’t want to!'”  This girl, dear friend and correspondent of many years, would make such an interesting character in a book.  Indeed, then, my mind fell on another friend, a thoughtful young man with an intellectual and spiritual curiosity to match the bigness of his heart.  He too could stand model for a character in a story.

Then my headache flared up again, and my mind let go of its creative castle-building.

“Problem is,” I mused despairingly, “I would want to transpose them to Regency England, and I don’t know enough of it to paint a true and satisfying picture.”  Indeed.

And I lay down my achy head on the pillow.