Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Everything I Knew

I have been pondering, recently, what genre my writing falls into. Actually, more often than not, I know precisely what kind of writing I am tasked with. When writing for the newspaper, of course, it’s straight journalism - the who, what, why, where, when and how. If it’s a research paper I’m engaged in, then I must carefully seek material and cite it in the final product. My ponderance today has to do with what, exactly, is my default writing style. With no constraints - what comes out?

I guess in modern terms, it could be defined as my blog style. In days gone by, it would be the style of my personal journal or diary. Written in the first person to be sure, but it’s more complicated… and yet at the same time much simpler than all that. It is perhaps the least restrictive form of free writing. However, when written for public consumption - a relatively new phenomenon brought about by the advent of web logs (blogs) - it must be coherent. Disjointed ramblings and accounts of my daily minutia without any deeper inference or reflection won’t garner many readers.

And isn’t that why I do it? I have written, by hand, journal entries during particular periods of my life in the past. Not only were these entries not meant for public consumption, they apparently were not meant for my own consumption. I have not gone back and re-read those entries. Although I didn’t know it, those writings were about the writing - not the reading. They were truly one-shot, single draft entries. There was no thought as to direction, theme or even organizational structure. It only had to make sense as the words spilled out in that single instance - never again.

That’s not to say that my scribblings were nothing more than the therapeutic pairings of words and punctuation. It also doesn’t mean there is no future value in those musings. Quite the contrary, I expect I will have occasion to re-examine those forgotten pages and extract insight from them. It has always been my intent - yet today is not the day. Although I am hard-pressed to remember the specifics of what I wrote, I do remember the nature and style of my musings. Except for grammatical and organizational enhancements, it is remarkably similar to the genre I am writing in at this very moment.

It is a genre defined by its lack of definition. As varied as it is exclusive, the personal essay is my default writing mode. Derived from the French word essayer, which means to try, the personal essay is an account of a piece of the essayist’s life. A personal trial. At best, it will have an ultimate direction; a point; a lesson learned; a moral. But not always and often these insights are left to the reader to determine - to establish and identify with the author’s experience. “Yes, I get that!”

And so often it is true that I can relate to writings of the likes of Vidal, Twain, Dillard, Stevenson, Orwell, Mencken, Baldwin, Didion and so many others. I wonder what that must have been like. They take me back to a place I’ve never been. On the most intimate level they share with me our lives. And I get that!

Perhaps it is because of the breadth (if not the depth) of my experience that I have a wealth of revelations to share. My life has taken me in many directions and continues today. Though in retrospect it represents so much acquired wisdom, I was often, in the moment, nowhere close to grateful for having the experience. And more often than not felt no wiser after the conclusion of said experience. Indeed, quite the opposite; I felt feeble, weak, shortsighted… stupid - these were the adjectives that best described my behavior. Not all were bad, yet each and every one of my experiences provided me with an opportunity for growth, however, not necessarily in the moment.

There is great comfort in knowing that stupidity is not exclusively mine. It is equally satisfying that my predecessors have derived from experience that which I often had to find for myself. The insights are so simple yet elusive. A mentor once described these revelations as “Brilliant flashes of the obvious.” And so they were, but again I am not alone in the self-discovery of so many basics in life. It’s nothing like I thought and at the same time, it’s everything I knew.

9 comments:

Jessica said...

After visiting yesterday, I've made myself a coffee before sitting down to read your blog now. I just know I'll find some great reading here.

Thanks for giving us so much to think about!

kenju said...

"Disjointed ramblings and accounts of my daily minutia without any deeper inference or reflection won’t garner many readers."

I wish some others knew this! Whatever your style, I like it. I'd say mine is Life Observations -from my point of view. I tend to report.....LOL

Awareness said...

your writing always pulls me in......

happy Tuesday.

muskie.

Veda said...

I'd kept journals since I was eleven or so, straight through to becoming a Mom and never having time for it. Occasionally, I'll still sit down to physically write (reads: pen/paper), but mostly now to ponder something I'm not yet ready to blog about.

I kept the journals and have gone back to read them periodically. The oldest stuff is downright bland, but by the time I'd hit 17, they'd become documented episodes of life, and so there are some rather interesting (to me only, I'm sure) stuff in there.

I remember that at 14, I'd wanted to hang onto it all, give it to a daughter I thought sure I'd have. Reading those though - they're awful!!! Fourteen sucked rocks and there's no better proof than what I'd written at the time. :) Funny how that works.

Fun post.

K said...

My blog falls under total and utter randomness from my head (lol, like that email I sent ya! I tend to spew a little too much from my head if I have been stuck in it for a while! Sorry about that) I wanted to be a little more intellectual on my site but I threw that out the window apparently :P

Layla (aka Barbara) said...

your writing falls under the genre of excellent.

Star said...

Why define it at all? Perhaps there is a yet undefined "style" that is yours.Here via michele.

LADY LUXIE said...

hmmmmmmmmmmmmm....never thought about that before...snooks..I wonder what sort of writing mine would fall into....hmmmmm...thinking thinking....

Know what???..Your blog has a voice...Only one distinct steady voice coming out when I read...I don't know how you sound like..for real...I mean your voice..but your writing has a voice in my mind...and it doesn't change...sometimes it softens...sometimes it becomes forceful..sometimes...in some of your writings I can figure you there just silent..waiting for words to come..I hear that too!...

All the bloggies' I read have voices..but some of them change depending on their writing...I think mine changes too..some times I write straight..sometimes with a tinge of unrecognizable accent..depending on my mood...My working writing ( I do training manuals...eeek..).has a flat monotone voice...sigh..

welp'...whatever genre yours is..I just like the sound of it when I read...

ave' a great weekend Mr. Mike..

ciao!!:>

R. Sherman said...

I liked this.

Actually, the other day, I was thinking similar thoughts about how age, (47 for me)leads to the cogitation which in turn leads to my blog entries. I know had I started doing this 25 years ago, the product would most likely have been crap.

Cheers.