I don’t practice Santeria – but I do do stream of consciousness
Longinus’ On the Sublime got me thinking about the relationship between speaker and audience, or between writer and reader. Thinking about audience plays a pivotal role in the way one writes. Who are you writing for? Yourself? Academia? Your friends and family who will love you no matter what you say about them in your scalding memoir? For instance, this blog is supposed to be more colloquial than an academic paper, per Dr. Pandey’s instructions, so I’m trying to make it colloquial AF. I’ve always felt that I only do well in school because I write what the teacher wants to hear.
In eighth grade, the first time I liked English class, you could write whatever you wanted, as long you supported your claim. In ninth grade it was all about following a formula: plug in supporting text, appropriate transitions and summaries. That was the year I got my first (and only) D on an essay. The rest of the year, I followed the formula. I was happy to move on to tenth and eleventh grade where my teachers were hippies and thought I was funny. But there will come a time (hopefully) when I am not writing for a captive audience. What happens when I’m not writing for a specific person any more?
I have always been told that I am a “good” writer but have never felt that way. Sure I enjoy stringing words together on a page, or in a word document, more than attempting to articulate a verbal sentence, but I still find writing to be extremely difficult. I labor over every word. I average about an hour per page on the first draft of an academic paper. Writing is just so personal. I wish I had more friends whom write. Then I could ask them if it’s really supposed to be “whom” or not. I prefer texting to talking because it gives me the chance to look it over before I send it, much in the way that I usually think about what I am going to say before I say it, which usually results in not saying anything at all because by the time it has been through the “extreme vetting” of my mind, it is too late to make the goddam point. But thinking about an audience makes writing easier for me.
As a child, I wanted to be a writer because I wanted to make other people feel the way I felt when I read a sentence that moved me. I wanted to share Longinus’ sublime with people: that moment of “distinction,” as Longinus calls it, of “excellence in expression,” when the writer and the reader touch outstretched fingers in a da Vincian ET moment. It wasn’t until recently that I started to believe that maybe I can actually do that. Just because I’m not a “creative” writer, doesn’t mean I’m not creative and a writer. I want to be in the word doc where it happens. I want to mitigate the sublime, to bridge the divide between writer and audience. I don’t know yet how to do that, but I’m hoping to learn and I’m hoping to make a career of it. In a time when computers can compose more grammatically correct sentences in seconds than I can in a lifetime, I’m hoping that my hour-long pages will add up to something that the computers can’t. I’m hoping that they will move someone the way I have been moved by words. And I hope that I don’t give up.