Time has an interesting way of both looming large and vanishing into thin air. It is so large an object to grasp, Americans, in particular, feel as if they can never hold enough in one sitting. Yet we cannot help but recognize that, as we grow older and the years pile up, months and weeks fly by as the seconds tick away ever so slowly. The weeks are the hare and the minutes are the tortoise. Another year has passed, a holiday is to be observed, and and anniversary celebrated.
I have now been blogging for one year, and though at first I worried I would burnout after a few months, I can proudly proclaim that even in the throes of a semester of student teaching, I have managed to keep a fairly regular posting (albeit in lieu of much needed prep time). The reading has continued and will continue, but for the moment, I would like to step out of the circle of literature which so characterizes this fickle little blog and discuss writing. I will do so by way of recapping my “year in writing.”
The evening is pictured in my brain as if it was yesterday. I had decided that blogging would be absolutely necessary for my future, and I needed a title. Anyone who has ever attempted to strike gold on a title the first time through knows how difficult titling something can be. Adam must have had a fun go at it himself. But how do you title an idea that only exists in theory? And then it struck me. As I lay awake that dark evening in my cramped Emporia apartment, a light went off and the fickle farce was conceived. The title, now, is perhaps one of the most important aspects of your writing. It is the hook: the first words a reader notices and the lasting impression when they leave. The title sets the tone. It can destroy a work or create a plethora of readers who would have passed by otherwise. I am naturally very poor at titles. I brood over the writing and ponder and re-ponder, over thinking words like relationships. But I feel that this simple blog has a title that suffices. At one point a name change was considered replacing fickle with fantastic. (I wrote a 12 page paper over the word fantastic.) But this title sticks and is truer to me, the compiler of these musings. The confirmation came this September that I had chosen the right title, as the band Mumford & Sons use both farce and fickle to open and end their new album.
I will not go on as David Copperfield does and recap the entire year of musings. I feel my writing has evolved quite a bit since that fateful day in November. I have left the tired musings of self I once felt compelled to write. There is of course nothing wrong with writing about oneself, and perhaps an update on my spiritual health and future plans would be an enlightening read. But not every person was meant to cook or paint, and I was created to read and discover what I have read through my writing. This year I have rediscovered the art of writing with pen in hand. I strongly believe that the best writing takes place with an uncluttered blank page with which the author has to work. Writing directly on the computer has the added distraction of internet and music (both of which are occurring as I now write), not to mentioned the enclosed feeling one may have when staring at a computer screen. We could all do with less technology in our lives.
This year I also discovered the beneficial act of “mimicking.” As any avid reader of this blog knows, I adore the writing of CS Lewis. Say what you will about his beliefs, he was a fantastic writer and could weave a web of thought around someone with his pen in such a way that they no longer were thinking about Lewis or themselves but something else entirely. Good writing invites us to discover a new world with the writer, and after taking their hand we are forgetting this world altogether. Rarely can someone accomplish such a feat outside of fiction, but Lewis did. The idea of mimicking Lewis did not actually originate with this blog however. The day was May 14, and, idiot that I am, I had scheduled the difficult exams for entrance into graduate school the Monday after finals week. To say the least, I was ill-prepared and as with anything in life dreadfully nervous. (I wake up nervous). The interesting idea entered my head as I began the writing portion of the test: “How would Lewis answer this question? How would he construct his response?” Well fortunately I had read a lot of Lewis, and the mimicking came easy. In the end, I did quite well on the writing portion; though, I did perform rather poorly on the rest of the test by my own standards. I found that I can, in a sense, write my way out of trouble. Since receiving a good report on that section of the test, I now try this mimicking routine after reading a book. GK Chesterton has also had a large influence on the way I write. Both Lewis and Chesterton have showed me the enduring strength one’s writing can have if we strip our argument to its base. I suppose, as Lewis states, if you attempt to be original you will never be original.
Another aspect of writing that has come and gone for me in the last year is fiction writing. When this blog was first conceived, I was taking a fiction writing class. I felt a tad constrained in the class however. Fiction to me (and it is different for every writer) is not something that one can sit down and figure out. Fiction must come to you as you carry on through your every day life, and I constantly find myself narrating in my head, often in awkward and embarrassing situations. The best way to create a character for a novel is to talk to your neighbor. If you attempt to create such interesting characters with nothing but the muscle in between your ears, I cannot imagine the outcome being any good. Every creator works with a type of base idea and from that creates a sprite. I use the odd characters in my own world.
I have unfortunately discovered this year the timeliness in writing fiction. The dreadful case with modern literature is the computer. The faulty idea that faster is better. Nothing great ever comes from haste. A good work may be conceived and written in mere months, but masterpieces take years. It can be no other way. I am learning even now, as I have recently finished Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the amount of patience a great writer must have. We are so entertained and fast-paced in this day and age that we do not take enough time to develop characters. A good character is a character so real to the author that he takes over the novel. The author loses control to the character. When Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield, I am guessing he knew from the beginning that Ham Peggotty would rescue two sailors during a tempest, one being Steerforth. I can see Dickens getting antsy as he approaches what was to me one of the most dramatic paragraphs I have ever experienced. How badly he wanted to tell what happened, but he held back, and I am grateful for him doing so. Had the story been any shorter it would not have had near the effect it had on me at the time.
This to segue to my own writing on my blog. I find that writing fiction is such an incredibly tedious task that my impatience wins the battle for creating something brilliant. I am still unable to think of a story line that could amuse even the dullest of individuals. My fiction writing feels more like a dam ready to burst. If I only had the patience and fortitude to figure out plot, I believe I could create something special to myself.
My blog writing is not much different. Though neither view is wrong (or bad for that matter), I find that the perfectionist in me keeps me from churning out as many posts as my soul my require. I spend over two hours writing each blog post, searching for mistakes, editing, and rewriting. Great writing never comes out the first time through. Because of this, my posts are often much longer and detail oriented. Some people like to put great care into cooking, whereas when I cook the main objective is to fill the empty stomach and continue surviving until some other haphazard tragedy or natural death, not starvation, takes me. In contrast, others like to write quickly. But I cannot because I think slowly. And in the end writing is nothing more than an elevated form of thinking. Thinking in which you see your thoughts materialize before your eyes. Writing may be the highest form of thinking — a scary thought for this blog.
Not too long after I began writing my posts with pen and paper, my impatience began to wage a small war with me, and I left off the time consuming practice. The effect has shown a decrease in the quality of my writing. My last four months or so have been characterized by haste in my postings, reflecting everything else taking place in life. As I look to the future, I look for a time in which I will feel comfortable enough to spend time writing by hand on a daily basis knowing full well the longing is nothing but another romantic ideal. Writing once again teaches me a life lesson. We feel it prudent to cram as much as we can into the small cracks of time we have been given that we begin to feel that mediocrity is acceptable. If I am too busy to take my time on an assignment, the result is that I excuse a sub par performance. Instead of constantly biting off more than we can chew in life, would it not be prudent to take a few steps back in free-flowing thought? The tragedy is that I deceive myself when I make the excuse that I have no time for writing. In truth, if we cut the amount of wasted time we often spend during our days, we may just have a few seconds to spare in thought. Our neglected brains might appreciate the attention.
In the end, I find this new hobby of mine to be a way of escape. I am a type of romantic. I dream and scheme of perfect situations and often become disappointed when they do not materialize. Writing is a way to take those restless romantic ruminations that fly into my head and give them a place of residence. I find myself longing to live on the coast and at the same time longing to live in the mountains or the plains. I want to live in the city and in a small town, abandon humanity and embrace those around me, move every two years and settle someplace for good. Perhaps this fickleness has come from the wayward past. In the last 12 years of my existence, I have not lived in the same city for longer than three years. My restless soul cannot settle down yet sorely longs to do just that. For now, I suppose writing will be my way of escape. Whether or not these ruminations prove to be anything of consequence, my heart of farce is covered with a thin layer of fickle flesh.