Monday, January 17, 2011

Taking the Plunge - Pen (er, Keyboard) in Hand

To begin my writing adventure I felt I needed some professional support and expert advice.  I like the idea of writing on a regular basis, but I'm still plagued regularly by writer's block and the "what" - what should I write about?  (I should probably be concerned with the "who" as well - as in, who will read the "what"?  But right now, a little personal blog feels pretty small and safe, so I'm shelving the audience question until I get my sea legs in the writing process).  

Back to the professional support from a real writer.  I recently picked up a copy of Dinty W. Moore's Crafting the Personal Essay - A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction with a Tattered Cover gift card that had been gathering dust in the deep recesses of my over-sized purse.  How, as a self-proclaimed bookworm did I manage to hold onto said gift card so long?  It is with a hearty twinge of guilt that I have to answer -- since I've become addicted and hopelessly attached to my Nook ereader (sorry, TC - still love those indie book stores, ereaders are just so dang convenient).  

Akin to what Julie Powell did with Julia Child's recipes, I'm attempting to do with Moore's writing exercises.  His book is full of information on the craft of essay writing, tips for making writing a part of your everyday life, and over 100 writing prompts and exercises to get would-be essay writers started.  And so, with Moore's help, I'm taking the plunge with:

Exercise #1: "Get it Out of Your System!"
Take a few minutes to scribble down any recollections of what you've learned over the years about the essay form.  This is a good time to vent...What did you want to write then?  What do you want to write now? (pg. 5)

Essays make me think of 5 block paragraphs that circle a narrow and generally uninteresting thesis statement.  Essays make me think of Ralphie and the "theme" he had to craft in the nostalgic "A Christmas Story" - a paper he was sure was going to move his staunch schoolteacher to tears and earn him an A+++, but in reality rendered him a disappointing C+.  Essays make me think of trite prompts, standardized testing, and college applications.  They make me think of math formulas, because so often our schooling experiences put the essay in a box, in ways we wouldn't dare box in other creative genres.  The poor essay - if written with passion and panache it could rival and borrow from it's distant relative, poetry, but instead it is assigned, assessed, and perhaps even admonished for pushing the envelope in form or voice.  It's time to liberate the essay, especially from it's traditional classroom definition.  

What did I want to write then?  What do I want to write now?  Hmm...something compelling and credible, but not not so research-laden that the reader gets bogged down in the minutiae.  Something I'm passionate about that would reach a broad audience with similar interests.  Something that is creative and lyrical in form, but that has substance.  I want to write something like that - now if I can just figure out what that "something" Mr. Moore, I'm stuck already! 

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