Saturday, January 30, 2016

Is Blogging Writing?

I just read a meme about writing, attributed to Sherman Alexie, that said every word in your blog is a word that is not in your book. It was part of a list of 10 - 10 tips on writing, 10 words of advice for writers - something like that. It seems to be implying that blogging takes away from writing, as if blogging is not actually a form of written expression. I have to take issue with that.

Blogging is a genre, just like tweeting is. They are modern genres that find their roots in the essay (blogs) and the epigram (tweets). You could make the argument that they may not be words in "your" book - a.k.a. your novel - but they are words in the massive book being collectively written and rewritten all the time, throughout the ages, by humanity.

There is an implicit assumption that written expression in long form, such as novels, and in analog printed form is somehow of higher quality and greater value than written expression in shorter forms or in digital format. I would say that the length or form itself is not automatically a measure of the  quality. Writing of poor quality can be found in print and in book-length works as well as in digital format.

At issue may be the fact that the shorter forms and the faster forms lend themselves to a lack of rigor, or a lax vigilance towards quality. Granted, the effort required to bring something out in analog (printed) form by its nature may be more likely to result in rigorous and careful attention to detail and quality. But does that mean I must see it as a trade? That somehow the choice to express my thoughts through the digital genre of blogging will inherently detract from my ability to express myself in a longer format or another genre?

Many writers journal as part of their process. Is every word in your journal a word away from your book? I don't think so. Writers write. We interact with our world through a wide range of written expression. I journal as an introspective tool. I blog as a way of engaging in reflection with the larger world. I write poetry as a different means of exploring language and expressing the ineffable. I blog my poetry as a way of extending that process into the greater human conversation. I write short stories, novels, stage plays, radio plays - I write in the form that fits what I want to say and accomplish through words. To express myself in one form doesn't detract from expression in another form. They feed eachother, build on eachother, influence eachother.

Am I working on my novel while I'm writing this blog post? No. But I'm still writing.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Poet's I, The Poet's Eye

Lately, as I think I've mentioned, I've been playing with poetry. "Playing" is the best word for it. There's something quite freeing about it, as if I'm more fully tapped into that mysterious voice out in the ether that seems to inhabit the writer's brain at the best moments. It feels like a more open, more direct conduit to the universal subconscious well of imagination.

Which brings me to the poet's "I" and the poet's eye. The eye through which I look at my words and my world when I have staked my flag in the territory of the poet is an eye that looks for strange juxtapositions, words and images that don't normally cohabitate, that take your brain in the direction of the other, of a dimension that has no words but finds its way through the sounds and shape and jostle of words. For me, it's not always the eye of personal experience. It's another entity, another brain, one that lives in another dimension and travels between worlds with an unself-conscious ease.

As a result, the poet's "I" is also different. Some poems come forth in the voice of "I." That doesn't mean it is my voice - the voice of my personal experience of emotions. I try to banish the fear of how readers who know me might interpret these poems. I am not the one speaking through the "I" of my poetry. Somebody else is making their feelings and experience known, or reaching out to another "I" that is a reader.

When I write fictional prose in first person, I am very conscious of my choice of point of view. I choose it inentionally, and my reader knows it is fiction. If they choose to confuse the narrative "I" of my protagonist with the "I" of me, the author, that's on them, but at least we all know there is, at minimum, a pretense of division between the two.

Writing poetry, I don't feel as if I can count on that assumed caveat. People see poetry as more personal and immediate. Will they assume the poet's "I" is also the author's eye? That I am speaking directly through my poems? I think I am, as a reader, guilty of that assumption. Yet, as a writer of poetry, I see it is false. Some poems simply speak, and they speak in first person, and yet they speak a story I know I haven't lived, but I still feel completely certain of the words.

Friday, January 01, 2016

I'm Writing about Other Stuff

I haven't really felt inspired to write in here lately, to write about writing. I'm much more drawn to my other two blogs, "God and Other Big Stuff" and "Pamplemousse". The first is a collection of reflective and spiritually oriented posts, while the latter is poetry and fragments of experimental writing. But I'm taking a moment this New Year's Day simply to say, "Hello, out there, writing world! I'm still here. Still writing. Hope you're doing well." If I were to spin this into a writing lesson, perhaps it would be that writers write, and they don't just write about writing.

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