Writing, Writing, Writing; or, Thinking and Reading about Writing

by Anna Blanch on July 17, 2009

I’ve been thinking about how writing as a blogger has stretched me, or should I say is stretching me- It is a stretch. I am a writer, but I am an academic (and that’s a whole different register….) so i am learning what it means to (endeavour to) write in the way that Aristotle suggests should be the epitome of good literary style:

To think like a wise man, but to express oneself so as to be understood by Everyman.

It actually, though i am not sure this was the intention (but that’s the way my mind works!) made me think about what it is that i deem worthy for my fridge door and what this says about. I have quotes and those magnetic words so that spontaneous prose and poetry can be written while i consider the photos and postcard and team schedules and things that remind me of my family and home.

Ben Myers wrote a post this morning clueing people in on Graham Harman’s liveblogging of the daily progress of his new book on Philosophy. On the process of writing Myers writes this insightful reflection on his blog:

I’ve often been struck by the fact that a period of intensive writing has exactly the same symptoms as chronic depression – or rather, if someone described the symptoms of depression, you would think they were simply talking about writing. “I have sudden inexplicable mood swings. I am anxious and dejected. I am awake late at night, and can’t get out of bed in the morning. I’ve lost interest in normal activities. I forget to shower and groom myself. I no longer eat meals at regular hours. Late in the afternoon, I am surprised to discover that I’m still wearing my pyjamas. I am drinking too much alcohol. I don’t return phone calls from friends. I feel like I can’t go on.”

I have to say that given the intensity of my last push towards finishing my thesis I can associate! I could also add to this the phase after completion of a project when I am physically lethargic, easily distractable, yet often still have some motivation left over…

I’ve been thinking how we learn how to write. While Harman’s liveblogging of his book project has provided food for thought, it is only obliquely related to the kind of writing most of us do daily. I have a few standby books that provide writing prompts for my research writing (general brainstorming kind of things) and these are helpful but I am very aware that I still have much room to develop as a writer – both technically and stylistically. For his part, Justin Taylor compiled a list of good books a few months ago on developing your “writer’s craft” which provides a collection of valuable resources for the writing process, development of style, and technique.

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