Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Writing On Writing On Writing On Writing...

Someone recently asked me if I write every day, something I've been asked before. My answer: "yes."

I used to think writing every day didn't "count" unless it was something I could perfect or something I could call a journal. But blogging, email, and listservs have changed my perception of what "counts."

This idea of what "counts" and what doesn't is ridiculous of course. I mean, who's counting except me? Is there some kind of external writing tabulator marking my writing attendance? "Uh, uh, uh....she didn't write a journal entry today." A big red "X" goes into the box, one of billions on the giant grid paper representing my days on Earth.

Still, though, I like to answer questions honestly, and as with any other question, I tend to over-analyze what is being asked. I'm quite sure the people who have asked me this don't mean for me to slip into my, "Well, how do you define writing?" mode.

Emily Dickenson wrote on her wall. Various poets and authors have written on the backs of brown paper bags. I've jotted ideas for poems on sales slips, kids' school papers, and business cards. Who is to say this isn't writing?

This reminds me of my adult students who hated to read. "Read anything," I would tell them. I do this myself, my eyes automatically attracted to any kind of text no matter where it is. It's a habit I developed from childhood when reading the phone book still appealed to me.

"Yeah, but I hate books!" they would cry.

"I said, read ANYTHING! Read the backs of cereal boxes. Read signs. Read newspaper headlines and notes from teachers and..."

"Does that count?" They were incredulous.

"Well what are you reading right now?"

"Nothing."

"Well then it counts, right? It's more than what you are doing now!"

I'm sure there must be some mathematical statement that implies anything more than zero is advancement (I guess that would be called adding or a number line). My blog entries are more than zero. So are my emails and my comments to students and my feedback on news articles....these are all forms of writing in addition to the creative writing I practice (which comes much more slowly).

I always tell students (and others) that online classes in writing are the best kind because they force you to write all the time. If you have a question, you must learn to write it so the instructor understands what you are asking. You must complete assignments, write essays, and participate in discussions all through writing. It's like a total language immersion class in which students are not permitted to speak English.....except in online writing classes, students can't speak at all. Their writing must speak for them.

Sandra, my Barefoot Blogger Friend over at she says with a smile wrote something like, "you don't really know me unless you read my blog." This is true for so many writers. Unless you read their writing, you will never really get a sense of who they are, what they are feeling, how they process the world because, hello.....most of us are natural introverts. Sure, we might "play" at being an extrovert, putting on the garb for a time, but I would argue most writers are not born extroverts. Someone argue with me about this if I am wrong.

If you read my blog postings, my poetry, my fiction, etc. (which you would be loathe to do because it would be incredibly mundane, would be time consuming, and who really cares that much anyway) you would see an outpouring of ideas, emotions, perceptions, etc., a real catalogue of one human experience. My entries, comments, creative writing represent different moods. Sometimes, I'm putting fury to paper. Sometimes, I'm brain dumping. Sometimes I'm organizing my thoughts. Sometimes, I'm trying to put to words an otherwise wordless thought or joy. And right now, I'm masturbating my brain, writing about writing. I believe they call this "meta cognition," or thinking about thinking.

Scholars and historians who study great authors delve into the very lint of a writer's daily word attire. They examine every letter, every note, every text the author has written and analyze it until they get a full picture of who that writer was. Without their labors of love, we would never know as much as we do about the great thinkers of the world. And while I will bet it gets quite boring focusing on a single human being for that long, the researchers' tenacity can never be repaid for the wealth they have uncovered for us.

With that, I will leave off from my self indulgence for the morning. There are other things that need doing, and by gum, I'm going to do them! Happily, some of those things include writing.

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