Monday, 11 June 2012

how you're writing

I've written a lot about writing over the past year. Sabbatical is an opportunity to write, and I've written in a whole range of ways all year: essays, chapters, a job application, poetry, emails, facebook status updates, letters of recommendation, reviews, feedback, and... a blog.

When I was chatting with my friend Chris tonight, and we discussed the panel we were on just a few days ago at the NAISA conference, we were talking about presentation styles and he mentioned that writing a few blog posts had really helped him experiment with different styles of writing. Click! I'd been thinking about this blog as a way of writing about things, and hadn't been thinking about it so much as a way in which I was developing my writing...

Well, that's not strictly true. I have realised for some time now that writing this blog has been really good for my writing in general because of the discipline, the habit, the practice of writing (almost) every day. It has made me more mindful of things going on (as I listen out for the theme of my next blog post), and it has kept me writing even on days when very little other writing-related work was going on. I've used the blog to write about things which have excited, angered or frustrated me... and I've known intuitively that writing about these things hasn't just enabled me to communicate my thoughts 'out there' but also to free up my emotions about things so I can focus on other kinds of writing where necessary.

I've let people down this year. There are things I should have written which I haven't. Writing has been a priority all year but, although I have faithfully started every project I've committed myself to, I have not always followed through. The blog has been a place where I have kept on writing, even when other kinds of writing have been grinding to a halt. The blog has kept my writing muscles, as I describe them to my students, limber and fit. Yes, even during periods when this is the only thing I've been doing.

I've fallen back in love with writing: truly, madly, deeply. I've remembered the joy of realising an hour has gently slipped away while I've been shaping a single paragraph. I've taken the chance to write about things happening in the world around me, and to write about my heart. Someone txted me the other day "u r grt writa :)" and I was elated: as I thought about why this comment had such an impact, I realised that this person had complimented me on something that really matters to me. I write. Writing is who I am. 

And yet, and yet, thinking about writing the blog only in these terms is still a limitation - because it focuses on the fact of writing rather than the content of writing: that I've written, not what I've written. Or, indeed, how I've written.

Tonite, I'm  thinking about the gift of being able to write (almost) every day... because it gave me a chance to experiment with a whole range of writing, with a sense of a supportive and diverse audience, with language. I think the blog has been my opportunity to try out a whole lot of styles, genres and voices; all of them are mine, but all of them are different. This blog has helped shape the writing I've done when I'm not writing the blog. Tonite I'm feeling thankful for that opportunity.

At home, there's an advertising campaign about binge drinking: "it's not the drinking, it's how you're drinking." Or, in this case...

Te tau okioki: it's not the writing, it's how you're writing.

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