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Poetics of the Everyday

Next time someone asks me why I blog or how in the world I have time to post regularly given all of the other things hanging over my head, this is the link I'll give them (to Kathleen):

No one attempting to be a pianist, whether professionally or for personal enjoyment, would assume that practicing once a month, fourteen hours a day, for three days in a row, would be better than practicing an hour a day, every day, rain or shine. Why is it that so many of us think of writing that way, as something that must be put off until there are huge blocks of time available?

The answer is a simple one. Pianists don't spend 3-4 months listening to performances by other pianists, only to find themselves booked for their own performance a week or so later. At least I hope they don't.

One of the things that continues to appeal to me about blogspace is exactly what Kathleen observes:

When I discipline myself to post something every day, or as close to it as I can, I find myself watching the world around me slightly differently, and treating my thoughts slightly differently, as though any occurrence or any idea might be capable of blossoming and bearing fruit. When I’m not posting, nothing seems worth writing about, just a bunch of dried-up seeds that’ll eventually blow away or be eaten by the birds.

And "discipline" is exactly the write rite right word here. The truth of the matter is that we are disciplined to do exactly the wrong thing when it comes to our own writing, and more often than not, I suspect that we replicate it. It's a particularly acute failure for those of us who study writing, because our disciplinary history typically casts as villain the "current-traditional" assumption that one learns to write by reading those who have written. And yet, how much better are we at teaching graduate students to do the kinds of writing they'll need when they leave our programs?

Not much. I've taken to giving an essay to my students, Paul Matsuda's "Coming to Voice: Publishing as a Graduate Student," from Casanave and Vandrick's Writing for Scholarly Publication (Amazon). What's important about the essay is that it narrates a process that's not about acquiring disciplinary content so much as it is learning about the conversations, about seeing publication as an ongoing process:

My goal was no longer just to publish but to respond to the conflicts, gaps, and discrepancies I perceived in the professional literature by contributing my perspective, which is informed by my inquiry--be it philosophical, historical, or empirical. I was no longer simply trying to express my ideas or to present the data I had collected by trying to engage in conversations with people in the field through my writing (49).

Remove the references to the specific disciplinary context, and what you're left with is a pretty sound description of the way that lots of people approach keeping a weblog. We also respond to the insights and wisdom we perceive--the one thing I'd change about that passage is the notion that writing only serves to address a deficiency, but then again, that's another of the ways that academia disciplines us to think about writing.

Maybe one of the things that disturbed me the most about the Tribble flap was that there was no room in his "analysis" for an awareness of the contribution that blogs might make to a person's development as a writer. For all of our consciousness about blogs, both in and out of academia, that's something that still goes largely unremarked. It shouldn't take us until well into our careers as writers to unlearn the implicit assumptions that we take with us from graduate school, and if weblogs can help in that process, more power to 'em.

That is far more than I'd originally intended, and thus, is all.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Poetics of the Everyday:

» Weblogging is writing, darn it from cbd
Weblogging is writing, darn it; riff on a post from Kathleen Fitzpatrick through Collin Brooke. ... [Read More]

» Something to say from Schenectady Synecdoche
Sometimes a blog just insists on being written. This entry has been nagging me for days, as I told TO while we were IMing a few days ago. I'm so damned tired that BP insisted on bringing in the wash... [Read More]

» More on Practice from Planned Obsolescence

Collin took the notion of "practice" that I raised on Sunday and ran with it, thinking both about the ways that academics are "disciplined" as binge writers and the ways that blogs, contrary to any Tribble-esque anxieties abo...

[Read More]

» on writing from thanks for not being a zombie
Lots of people lately are blogging about the process of writing. One common thread is that you need to write at least a little bit every day in order to be productive. Joe confronts his writer's block daily. Mel explains... [Read More]


Yes! Yes! awesome post. I'm going to read that essay....

piano - keyboard
blog - keyboard

piano - solo
blog - solo

piano - jazz ensemble
blog - jazz ensemble

favorite pianists - paul bley, misha mengelberg, cecil taylor, thelonious monk, bill evans, marian mcpartland, bud powell, herbie nichols, carla bley

favorite blogs - collin vs blog, working blue, yellow dog, neo baroque, blogora, fuller's speed shop


I've already written a whole post in response (though without trackback--I gotta get that), so I won't add much here, except to say that I agree with gvcarter's analogy to jazz. Improvization is another benefit of blogging, and it's something my approach to academic writing and thinking was really in need of.

And Marilyn Crispell and Alice Coltrane (check our her new CD) aren't bad models, either.

Thought you might get a kick out of this: Destiny USA lowers the bar

favorite jazz pianist (additions) : marilyn crispell, alice coltrane, mary lou williams, andrew hill

favorite blogs (additions) : digital b, steven d. krause, machina memorials

thanks donna :)