Friday, November 12, 2004

Beyond self-indulgence

This is for Charlotte Gregory. And for David Sawyer.

Miss Gregory taught her 11th Grade English class that daily writing did not need to be just a diary, with all its connotations of the pink cover with a clasp. She encouraged us to write what we were thinking, no matter the format: poetry, short stories, diatribes, expressions, interesting passages from books, our own feelings. So, I started.

David Sawyer taught Rhetoric 101 to Lycoming College freshmen. He took the concept one step further: we were each required to write for 15 minutes daily, nonstop – even if it meant writing “I don’t know what to write” while our brains got unstuck. He checked our notebooks each week to make sure we met the assignment; he didn’t read our stuff, just made sure we wrote. His purpose was to break any fear that a blank piece of paper could engender, and to get us used to writing without worry about form. Structure and form would come with editing.

For me, the result is 32 years of material. Sporadic. Unedited. On paper and in four different word processors. Some junk, some creativity. Most resting in a four-drawer metal filing cabinet in our basement.

But how self-indulgent can one get? If I don’t publish anything, journaling becomes a solo pursuit without an audience. I can have a sense of immortality by believing that this stuff is left behind for others, as a way of measuring who I was. But isn’t it better to have something to say that others can hear? Rather than leaving breadcrumbs backwards from the gravesite, I can use words to affect thought and outcomes during my lifetime.

The new electronic media lets me do this. I can publish without an intermediary – no editor, no marketer, no newspaper or magazine to convince. I can become a blogger, and let others determine the impact.

I can go from private self-indulgence, to the arrogance of believing I have something important to say. All in one electronic posting. Even that sentence can be read in different ways:

All, in one electronic posting.
All-in-one electronic posting.

So here goes. I take Miss Gregory’s encouragement to write, and Dr. Sawyer’s admonition against the tyranny of the blank page, and join the cacophony of sounds and words on the internet. Small i.

I will not limit myself to one theme or subject. I will write about our government and leaders. I will write about baseball. I might weave in some poetry. This is a personal experiment, designed to take my monologues and turn them into dialogues. Or just a way to get published.

This is Entry 1. In Entry 2, I take on the President.

No comments: