Thursday, February 28, 2008

why I write

Question: Why do you write?

Short answer: because I was no good at the guitar.

Seriously, though...
I don't remember a time when I wasn't writing. It's a cliche thing to say, but writing was something that came naturally to me, and gave me more confidence than drawing or music. And it's not that I lacked skills in either of those pursuits--it's just that it was harder to achieve the results that my writing achieved. What's more, I liked both the process and the results. and I like the way I feel when complimented for both.

And I wrote anything I could: stories, essays, poetry (really bad poetry, I might add), letters, you name it. I started keeping a diary when I was 13 and haven't stopped since. Still write all of the above (not so much stories in terms of short fiction, but if you saw my emails to my friends, many are loaded w/ stories), and more.

When I'm not physically writing, I'm mentally writing. I'm hearing conversations between characters in the shower, visualizing a setting in the car (the worst is when I'm listening to a book on tape on the way to school, and suddenly start mapping out a scene for my own novel, only to realize that I just missed the whole scene from the audiobook), drafting a letter to an old love as I'm falling asleep, making up new stuff during watching mindless tv, and so on. Composing, I like to say.

I write because I have something to say.
I write because I have something to respond to.
I write because a truth needs to be told.
I write because I have a lot to think about.
I write because I can.
Because I love language.
Because I feel something.
Because I love to do it.
To make people laugh. Or mad. Or happy. Or verklempt.
To give someone a chance to see or think about things in ways he/she may not have previously done so.
To communicate.

I write because I breathe.

I've gone through periods of my life when I've done very little reading, or painting, or playing music. I was a psychology major as an undergrad. I've made and lost friends, fallen in and out of love, gone through times of turbulance and tranquility. Throughout it all, writing was the one constant, the thing that never left me, that I always counted on (even during writers block. it was there, even though it wasn't saying anything). I can't imagine a life w/out writing, nor would I ever want to. I am a writer in the way I am a twin-- I simply don't know how to be otherwise.

Oh, and by the way, the reason why I was so bad at the guitar was because I was left-handed. I didn't figure this out until about four years ago, when I bought an acoustic designed for a lefty and began teaching myself. And I found out that I'm actually not bad at all, especially when I practice (and I haven't practiced in a long time). But I'm still not *that* good...

In Retrospect:
So, after re-reading the Welcome post, I have two comments to make. One: the book to which I refer is actually called The Rhetorical Tradition (left out the The). Two: The wikipedia definition of kairos kinda sucks. So if any sophists want to offer a better def, please do so!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Greetings, readers.
Welcome to Kairos Calling, the blog devoted to the craft and joy of writing.

For those who don't know, the term kairos goes back to Aristotelian times and sophistic rhetoric; and, much to the shock and horror of my students, I'm going to refer to wikipedia rather than my hefty Rhetorical Tradition (Bizzell, Herzberg) textbook from grad school for a working definition (although I looked up the term in my book first before moving online, just to make sure I was choosing the right word). Kairos "signifies 'a time in between', a moment of undetermined period of time in which 'something' special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word."

I have to be honest: I didn't want to be this serious or academic when selecting a blog name. Actually, my original name was going to be Purple Panda, after a character from the Land of Make Believe on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I was going to put a "The" in front of it to avoid copyright infringement. I even googled it to see if it was taken. In the end, I rejected it because I found too many sites w/ similar names that were clearly targeting a younger audience. I was going for whimsy, but not furry pens with heart-shaped caps or myspace links to guys named Chad.

So, I opted for the typical and predictable, I guess, and I'm already experiencing that cognitive dissonence that happens when you're in a restaurant, trying to decide between chicken and fish, and you choose the chicken, all the while regretting that you didn't take the fish.

I should've gone with the fish.

But, I am a rhetorical geek, and a modern-day sophist, and I do love the spirit of the word, so it does work. The "Calling" part of the name is a sort of invitation. That, and it set me apart from religious organizations and academic journals.

Let me clarify that the writing that takes place on this blog is going to be anything but finished. Sometimes it will be boring, or repetitive, or choppy, or poorly proofread, or contain structural trainwrecks. There will be use of the passive voice and adverbs. There will be improper usage of punctuation (in particular an overabundance of elipses, dashes, and semicolons, not to mention parentheticals) and capitalizations. If you're looking for correctness, then read a textbook. I would argue that blog writing is mostly inventive. And yet, I am well aware of my audience, and I aim to impress and entertain, so I will do my best to avoid the above zonkers as much as possible. I want this blog to initiate response and inspiration for you to write.

Sometimes I'm going to answer questions about writing, as if I'm being interviewed. Sometimes I'm going to write about my own writing process. Perhaps I'll post questions for my faithful readers. I'm currently finishing one novel and planning another and avoiding one more, so I'll likely talk about those, but I'll not reveal specifics. I may talk about books that I'm reading or have read, because I think writing and reading are inextricably linked. I'm going to use words like "inextricably" and hope I'm using them in their proper contexts. As I hinted earlier, I am a teacher of writing, albeit academic writing. I'll likely not discuss that much, especially in the context of students. Most of the writing I'm going to talk about here will pertain to creative fiction and nonfiction. Mostly I'm just going to celebrate the joy of language, of writing as play, as work, as truth, as thought, as creation, and all the other cheesy metaphors you've heard and used. In other words, I aim to keep this as fun as possible. If I mention others in my life, I'll either use initials or pseudonyms.

So, here we go. I hope you'll enjoy reading this.
And if it makes you feel a little less like a stuffy academic, just call me The Purple Panda. I know I will.