Saturday, January 10, 2009

back to the basics

I love that writing so often begins with two very simple elements: a purpose and an audience. The call to write is so often the result of being witness to something: a person, place, or situation/event; a reaction to said person, place, or situation/event; a phenomena, and/or, my favorite, a what if.

We write because of a desire or need to say something. We write to argue, to describe, to persuade, to communicate, to say hello, to say we're here. We write to explore, deny, find, expose, hide, realize, and reveal or tell a truth. We write to pretend, to escape, to play, to stretch the rules. We write for fun, for work, for play, for school, for no reason. We write for us and/or for others.

Which segues into my next point very well. I also love that writing begins with an audience of self. There are stories, letters, journal entries, poems, etc., that I've written for me and me alone. Faking It began as the book that I wanted to read. Over the break, I re-read the pieces of my unfinished novel, Tenure, and I wondered if it would ever get finished, if it really was for me only. I still have the stories I wrote when I was a teenager. I haven't looked at them in 20 years. I may never look at them again. But I am so grateful for them. They got that teenager through some very tough times. They gave her a place to go.

Last month, my writing partner and I exchanged gifts of a different kind. She wrote a scene involving our characters and sent it to me as a Christmas present. The intention was not for me to proofread it, or figure out where it belonged in our manuscript. It was a gift, pure and simple. It was a gift of words, a gift of imagination. It was a gift of love, too. And I played w/ it, adding my own bits to it (like we so often do), having fun, letting it be what it was. And so, a few days after Christmas, on her birthday, I wrote another scene using the same characters and sent it to her. She was free to play w/ it any way she wanted, and maybe she did, but she liked it, and she appreciated it for what it was. She knew I wrote it just for her, just as the previous scene had been just for me.

There is so much to literary theory that I don't know, haven't learned, and may never learn. I can just about recall those terms we learned in grade school: protagonist, antagonist, plot, conflict, theme, rising action, climax, exposition, etc. I'm a rhetorical girl-- always will be. I like it that way. But there is one part about writing that neither falls into the rhelm of rhetoric nor literature. It has to do w/ the creation, but can be applied to the academic, technical, and business writing as well as creative fiction or nonfiction. It's the nature of the idea. Writing comes from someplace, in response to something. It is born of witness. But there is a force-- invisible, unknown, unconscious-- that, for lack of a better phrase, puts the idea in our head. There is a place where the words and images come from, the ether, I suppose.

My brother has listened to a song that he has composed, arranged, performed, recorded, produced, engineered, and mixed. Start to finish. Much like my own writing process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, finishing, etc. And he listens to it and wonders how he did it. I get that. I've had those marvelous moments. It brings tears to our eyes when it happens.

Which brings me to this blog.
Am I running low on purpose these days? I feel like I'm repeating past conversations. Have I said all I need to say? Does the scope of Kairos Calling need to change? (I'm even thinking of calling it Elisa Lorello's Kairos Calling. I've finally given up The Purple Panda, although I'm keeping the picture 'cause it's so damn cute...) Is my audience bored?

Anne Huffington (is it Anne? Anna? a different name altogether? forgive me for my simultaneous ignorance and laziness to look it up) of The Huffington Post, while on The Daily Show promoting her recent book about blogging (which I so wanna get -- my birthday's comin' up...) talked a little bit about the rhetorical situation of the blog, about its free-form, unpolished style (as seen in this neverending sentence). And yet, Jon Stewart seemed more perplexed by its seeming purposelessness. I couldn't help but perplex right along w/ him. Are we all just a bunch of windbags really just liking the "sound" of our voices? (ok, maybe that was harsh) Or is there real value in this text?

If I shift the purpose of Kairos Calling, to what will I shift it? I wonder.

I suppose I'll end on this note: Writing is also thinking, and I suppose that is ultimately what this post is all about -- I'm thinking out loud, on the page. And my truth is that I don't know what to do.


mamie said...

This is a very thoughtful post and thanks for writing it. There was much in it that I identified with. Keep writing, sister, and we'll keep reading.

(My word verification is STEDRUS: A person who faithfully writes thoughtful posts for the rest of us.

Elisa said...

In that case, we'll all be a stedrus for each other!!