I never thought I would look to Jonathan Franzen the popular writer for writing advice. I really have not taken to his work and find his prose overblown and obtuse. But, I found myself taking notes on an essay he wrote about many things including writing essays.
The essay is a form I am drawn to and it fits the style and length of a Blog well. Further, in the new journalism or literature or literary journalism, very personal obsevations — reference to the “I” are no longer frowned upon.
In his recent article in The Guardian, Franzen postulates,
Writing or reading an essay isn’t the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way.
I Blog because I do want to discover who I really am and what life means to me. I wish to consider ideas and events that have importance to me and codify my own thoughts and feelings about them. Writing is a voyage of discovery.
Franzen goes on to state,
One of the mysteries of literature is that personal substance, as perceived by both the writer and the reader, is situated outside the body of either of them, on some kind of page. How can I feel realer to myself in a thing I’m writing than I do inside my body? How can I feel closer to another person when I’m reading her words than I do when I’m sitting next to her?
This feels true to me. I feel close to the writers that I read and am always interested in their life and career, process and purpose. I believe I have been privy to something “real” about them and I respond to their voice. I know that finding my own voice is paramount in any writing.
The answer, in part, is that both writing and reading demand full attentiveness. But it surely also has to do with the kind of ordering that is possible only on the page.
Every essay, even a think piece, tells a story. There are two ways to organise material: “Like goes with like” and “This followed that.” Sort it into categories, grouping similar elements together: Like goes with like. This is, at a minimum, a tidy way to write.
And suddenly I felt I had taken a tutorial on essay writing and was more at home with the format than ever before. I’m making sense of my world; I’m asking questions that resonate with me and I’m finding my way through the answers.
With the advent of the internet anyone and everyone can offer their thoughts, wishes and dreams to the public. But I believe substantive responses to other writers and questions is called for. Don’t just like or thumbs down something. Why do you think this way? Disect the information and organize your answer with your own voice and find out what you really think — or maybe who you really are.