Beginning to Speak


Mar 28th 2011

I teach writing. Or perhaps, more accurately, over the years I have learned enough about how to translate a vague idea or intention into a sometimes persuasive and sometimes elegant piece of prose that I can be helpful to others who have something they want to write. I did not set out to do this; I just followed my nose and it came. Somewhere I read that our brains are naturally attracted to certain subjects and processes, and if we pay attention to these particular things they grow in us. My husband has a knack for finding the elusive state shell of North Carolina, the Scotch Bonnet, on the sands of Ocracoke Island. He meanders along the beach and they come to him; our daughter the marine ecologist says that he has a search image for the Scotch Bonnet in his brain. I seem to have a search image for writing. The irony, however, is that I haven’t done much writing myself. “Those who can do; those who can’t teach.” I wrote a dissertation, a number of poems, recommendation letters, a journal — I write in a journal — but that’s it. I teach writing, but I don’t write. This makes me uncomfortable, hence this blog.

I am embarking on this project with only the vaguest of intentions. The idea came in the middle of the night and persisted for several days so here I am. I think it will become a place to play with ideas that have been pestering me for the last few years, ideas about how we know and communicate, about the line between language and other forms of expression. About art, creating, being. Abstraction. This has deterred me from writing in the past; I am drawn to big ideas and abstraction. Embarrassing. But that seems to be where this brain (this mind?) wants to go. My friend David the other day said that abstraction is a deeply embodied art form; actually I think he said sensory, that abstraction is not stuck in cognition but is rather a dance with the senses. He was recounting a recent argument. Ah, I thought. That’s much better. Perhaps I can finally own up to my fascination with abstraction.