NOTES ON WRITING: WE DO NOT WRITE ENTIRELY FOR OURSELVES


HERMAN MELVILLE'S HOUSE AT ARROWHEAD


Notes on writing:


We do not write entirely for ourselves. “The seat of the soul is where the inside meets the outside.” (Novalis) By this I think he means we can’t know ourselves without a connection to the world. We live in the world and the world lives in us. When we isolate ourselves, the world becomes even louder. When I say “I” I mean “you” also.


Writing to publish helps in this, whether it’s in a personal blog or a professional publication. To some extent, one’s writers group supplies an audience; but expanding the circle outward is an admission we live as part of something that is larger than self, larger than tribe. Realizing this, there is a shift in our writing, in our self-knowledge.


Pieces written within a certain span of time have a built-in unity. If you have written, say, during the last two years, with any kind of regularity, all your writing is held together by a single voice. A writer’s voice is a pectin that holds it all. Beyond that span, or sometimes within it, our voice will change. This is as it should be.


Writing is like Martin Buber’s Thou. We create a space in which writer and reader may be open to one another, even if we do not personally know each other.


Draw a triangle: at one angle put writing, at the second put reading, at the third put speaking. They are different but not discrete entities. One helps the others. A person who reads and writes will speak more emphatically when required.


When we read we participate in language that goes back to the first written word. Our writing doesn’t grow without reading. Other writers are our teachers. The best ones.


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