Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dreams from Papa

Last year I followed a discipline I called "Jogging and Blogging". This year I'm going to try something different because I want to devote some time to my own writing.

There is a difference between writing a blog post that is published immediately every other day and working on a developing text just as often but to be published at some later time. Publication gets the text out of your system. (Even submission to a publisher, like an academic journal, has this effect.) This spring I'm going to be exploring that difference in some detail.

So on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I will be getting up a 6:00 AM to write a blog post for an hour. But on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I will be working, also during that hour in the morning, on a book that I have been thinking about for some time. I still need to get some jogging in but, since it is dark in the morning this time of year anyway, I've decided to run during my lunch break.

The book is an attempt to work through my ideas about knowledge and power, science and politics, and, ultimately, philosophy and poetry (as literary disciplines). It is an attempt to clarify "my philosophy", you might say, by revisiting the themes of my PhD dissertation. I want to get as close to the core of what I think about how representation works, and what its limits are. Ultimately, it is an attempt to write down what I think I know about language and writing.

As part of my discipline, I am reading a chapter of Ernest Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon every night before going to bed. It is an amazing book, even if you don't (as I don't) have particular interest in bullfighting. Consider the following sentence:

I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. (10)

As the book proceeds, you find yourself in the company of someone who is trying to write truly "what I know about [bullfights] now" (11). Each sentence is supported directly by a surplus of knowledge and experience. (It is no wonder that this is the book that the iceberg metaphor is normally quoted from.)

So, I go to bed at night with Hemingway's prose about bullfighting in my head, and I wake up in the morning to write, sometimes for my book, sometimes for my blog. One is trying to give one's mind a discipline within which to sort itself out, to find out truly what one really thinks and what perceptions invoke the concepts one experiences. Hemingway believed that such discipline allowed his subconscious to do most of the work.

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