Notes from Virginia
Saturday, August 20, 2005
  Why write?

For me writing is like ... a halogen lamp. Once I turn it on, I'm in the pool of light it casts and I see things with a startling new clarity. Some of what I see, I don't like: the sharp edges of bias or prejudice, the moldiness of bad thinking, chipped paint of emotions, the broken furniture of ideas. Whatever I choose to bring into the lamp's glow is forever changed, whether that be a memory, a sense of who I am, how I feel about issues and/or people, tricky intellectual matters, or something I've read. Writing for me, in other words, is a means of understanding the world and my place in it in a more comprehensive way. When I better understand myself I better understand how my emotions, assumptions, and ignorances determine how and what I see. I can start to discern that to which I had otherwise remained blind. I think people in general see what they want or expect to see, but when I write I confront contradictions, either my own or those of others, and only then can I start to negotiate or work through those problems of false consciousness. See I'm starting to do it now, using big words to express big ideas, harnessing language so that I can examine my world. Here's another example of how this works for me:

My areas of expertise if you can call them that are Mary Shelley, her circle (father and mother primarily), and the Gothic romance form. I initiated study in these areas because I was hungry to see how these maverick writers used a popular tradition to explore a radical belief system. The more I work on Shelley, though, the more inescapable becomes a sense of her ambivalence about women's rights, about Empire, and about colonized peoples. So, my writing in this area has not served to reassure my assumptions or my original thoughts on the matter. Just the opposite, which is what makes it such an incredibly powerful tool when we give ourselves over to it. Writing does not always lead to self-reassurance.

Other types of writing I do on a daily basis include the following:

Stuff I'd like to write or write about

That's all for now. What kind of writing do you like to do? What is writing like for you? Like a pizza with lots of toppings, sometimes too thick and bready, other times to crisp? Like taking a shower: cleansing and something that the folks around you appreciate (smelly writing and b.o., now that would be an essay topic!)


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