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Another from the recently found archive

15 Sep

Most of us write because we like ourselves better when we write. We write because it gives our lives meaning, because we get to tell our stories.

That is from the web pages of Jessica Page Morrell, author of Writing Out the Storm (Portland, Starbound Press, 1998). I have quite an extensive library of books on writing, ranging from the usual reference texts to manuals to literary theory and linguistics. Morrell’s is in the self-help or writing-as-therapy genre, which some might regard patronisingly–but I do not. There are truths about writing in such texts, truths more useful in fact than in much of the academic theory–certainly more useful than most of the postmodern stuff I have had occasion to read lately. But it is not really a case of either/or; different focus, that’s all.

Writing makes your life better because you get to speak your truth and turn a discriminating eye at this weird planet and tell other people just how you see things. Most people who write regularly, who make writing a crucial component in their existence, like themselves better than when they’re not writing. It’s pretty simple. I know it works because it worked for me. If you write regularly–no matter what the subject or format–you’ll shift your muddled worries to clarity, your vague hopes to reality, and your denial to crystal truth….

Some of us write for the sheer joy of putting words on paper, but for others there are leftover hurts or a deep, dwelling loneliness begging to be healed. Most writers know that pain is eased by the company of words. So we write. [Writing Out the Storm pp. 2-4]

Certainly this diary began (offline) in 1999 because of a "dwelling loneliness begging to be healed." I am less lonely now, thanks to certain events over the past two years, but the writing bug is still here, and I recommend writing to anyone. I don’t write every day, but pretty damned close! Just fifteen minutes or so is as good a form of meditation as I know–and now and again it even results in something better than a rant!

Writing Out the Storm has some good practical advice on writing, all the more valuable as it counterbalances the tendency to dehumanisation that academic writing inevitably produces. Academic writing is often very bad writing; is it not ironic that we actually have to teach some of the very worst vices of academic prose to students whose natural inclination is to write well? We have to prepare them to stifle their authentic writing voices so that they can produce the turgid over-nominalised polysyllabic stuff that academics regard as appropriate.
Gary B. Larson’s portal to an annotated directory of writing Web sites, editorial style manual, concise writing guide, personalized advice and writing forum is also well worth visiting.

On other matters, a very well-researched book I have been reading lately is Neil Miller’s Sex-Crime Panic (Los Angeles, Alyson Books, 2002) — from the excellent Surry Hills Library. It is very fair in its depiction of 1950s therapeutic and criminological views of homosexuality, American of course but not dissimilar to what prevailed in Australia and coloured my own views in my late teens and twenties. It is quite a cautionary tale. The review I have linked to tells you more.

— 15 September 2002

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