Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing and Rooting

Here I am:

Looking out into the blogosphere….

Big toe testing the blogowaters….

Allright, I can do this.

Deep breath…

hold it…



Hey there. Sorry about the above. It’s my first time swimming in this mighty ocean and I needed a moment.

And now for a confession: I’m a published writer. Five times over. Oh, and then there are the Cons – to date, I’ve been accepted to read from my work at fourteen of those. I’ve also been invited to talk about my writing at Colleges in Vermont, Michigan, Iowa, and even right here in Minnesota.

Scroll down to Shawn’s first entry. Go ahead, it’s a good one. The first Scribblerati post ever. And notice how he describes our writing group: we be five aspiring writers. Guess I forgot to mention some stuff to Shawn, huh?

Because, the thing is: I don’t think of myself as a published author. All the stuff I blathered on about above? That’s all academic writing. The writing you do when you’re faculty at a college or university. Maybe you’ve heard that saying? You know the one: publish or perish? It’s pretty much true. In most academic jobs, until you have tenure, (if you’re lucky enough to have a tenure-track job—which I don’t, btw,) you have to publish, or you’ll find yourself kicked out of those ivory towers. And so, in an attempt to avoid having your head smashed open after they’ve chucked you out the attic window, you publish. (Or you change your name to Rapunzel, grow your hair freaky long, learn some rodeo tricks and free yourself from the blasted tower.)

Anyway, I’m a philosopher by trade, so I have to write philosophical papers, which get read at philosophy conferences, (which we don’t actually get to call Cons,) which, hopefully, get published in philosophy journals. So I can keep getting paid for being a philosopher.

I’m also a fiction writer. Who is very, very much not published. And, in all honesty, not yet ready to be published. But hopefully, with the help of my Scribble-mates, my current project is nearing the state in which the story that I’m trying to tell is told as well as I can possibly tell it. Whether that story, even at its best, is publishable is, of course, another matter. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Recently, when my work was up for critique by the group, someone (Shawn again) remarked that the writing I do professionally must be pretty different than the writing they’ve been critiquing. And in many ways that’s true: one doesn’t typically get to say things like “freaky-long hair” in an academic article. And yet, at its most basic, I think all of the writing I do starts from the same place.

I want to figure something out. And I want to figure it out badly.

I want to figure something out so badly, that I’m going to write and write and write until I’ve got it figured out. That’s what got me writing my dissertation, Knowledge, Communication, and Difference: An Integrative Theory. It's also what got me writing my novel, Once We Were Bears. (And, on their titles alone, which one would you rather read, dear reader?)

So that’s what my writing always is: I’m rooting around to get clearer about something that’s bothering me. I was bothered by white folks saying stuff like: “I can’t understand what people of color go through.” Bothered by it even though I know there is truth in the statement; bothered even knowing that one can say it with the best intentions. Because, I thought, shouldn’t we whites be trying to understand what folks of color go through? And since philosophers had done a particularly bad job of addressing the question of whether or not we can communicate what we know to others who differ from us, I thought, “well, this philosopher? she’s gonna try to do better.”

The thing I’m rooting around with in the novel, the thing that’s bothering me, pestering me like tongue worrying a loose tooth is my own participation in the destruction of the wilds. In very large part, our human ways of life, including my own, are making it such that there's a real possibility that the Wildthings won’t be found in our living world anymore. Instead they’ll live on only in books and movies and memories. So, I wonder about the bears.

What would a bear think about me, about humanity? That’s the question I’m trying to answer in my novel.

In the dissertation I argued that we can come to know what another human knows, even if we come from differing knowledge communities. In the novel, I’m trying to see myself and our shared world from the perspective of a bear. And how can I possible come to know that? I’m not sure I can. But maybe, just maybe, by writing and writing and writing, I’ll figure it out.

1 comment:

Shawn Enderlin said...

nice - i think you may have just changed my planned post for this coming friday!