Friday, June 11, 2010


Jed Perl has written a wonderful article over at The New Republic. It's a short, 1,000 word piece that talks about the a writer's relationship with his or her work. Specifically, Perl is examines the "freestanding value" of a writer's work. I won't summarize the essay anymore here, as one should read it in its entirety. Instead, I'd like to discuss the significance Perl's theme's have on my overall goals for maintaining a publicly available blog.

The ubiquity of blogging in part of its appeal, as well as its challenge. A well maintained blog requires a focus; and to maintain any kind of readership, some excellent writing. A focus gives readers an expectation which is essential in a diffuse environment like the internet. A focused blog is means, that when someone wants to read about political news or literary analysis, they know where to go. Obviously, they are some excellent exceptions to this idea, (Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish comes to mind) but these exceptions are just that: peculiar instances of excellent writers finding a voice outside of a traditional template.

Part of this necessity for a focus is the tacit admission that the writer is searching for readers. The blogger publishing his or her work is striving for an audience to read and (hopefully) appreciate the published work. This is where Perl's essay comes in; the notion that writing can have utility or "a value apart from the reader" (emphasis mine). This idea is important to me for the reason that I am a student. During the semester, all of my literary endeavors revolve around a class and a grade. This can make writing a horrendously mechanical exercise, where student's use the essay format to regurgitate assigned reading in a relatively ordered way to illustrate to professors the level of the student's comprehension. This can mean papers are often produced without any thought unto the independent or educational value the piece may have for the writer. This is lamentable because writing, Perl explains, "is a way of clarifying one's thoughts."

Writing's elucidating powers lies, in my opinion, within the act of writing itself. Perl explains:
"...there is something monastic about the process, a confrontation with one's thoughts that has as value apart form the proximity or even perhaps desirability of any other reader. I believe that most writing worth reading is the product, at least to some degree, of this extraordinarily intimate confrontation between the disorderly impressions in the writer's mind and the more or less orderly procession of the words that the writer manages to produce on the page" (emphasis mine).

The production of my major papers can be described as nothing short of monastic, which is probably why identify so strongly with Perl's piece. On nights before a papers due date (a sign of my own procrastinatory habits) I seal myself in my small apartment room, prepared with an endless cup of coffee (among other stimulants), a bottle of water and something edible and grainy. There are times where this solitary experience can be described only as a zen transience, where nothing exists within my thoughts aside for the next paragraph, the next sentence, the next word.

The focus here then, is the pursuit of that experience, as well as a practice of the writer's discipline.

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