Monday, April 17, 2006

Large and containing multitudes

After not working on the Book-In-Process for a full week, this weekend I spent another few hours copying and pasting old blog entries. Already, I'm deciding that I have enough material for not one but two eventual books: one focusing on my explorations here in Keene, and another focusing on my travels to other places. (Think Thoreau in Walden vs. Thoreau in Cape Cod or The Maine Woods.)

Finding time to work on Another Huge Project (a term which is rapidly becoming my pet name for the Book-In-Progress) during the last weeks of the term is understandably daunting...but I'm finding that schedule constraints are among the least of my worries. As I mentioned in my previous post, revisiting old blog entries is a bit creepy. As much as I insist that Hoarded Ordinaries is nothing more than a place blog, there's a lot of personal stuff in there, too...and my best, most resonant entries (I think) are the ones where I braid the two strands of Place and Personal.

This is an issue I'm currently working on in my teaching. Next year, I'll be teaching a pilot Integrative Studies course on "The Art of Natural History," and that course is grounded on the premise that nature writing represents the marriage of Art and Science as it employs the narrative strategies of both autobiography and science writing. There's always an "I" in nature and natural history writing, but some writers efface that authorial presence more than others do. In my blog, the observing "I" is always there--I don't keep an objective stance as a strict science writer "should"--so revising my blog posts offers the particular challenge of revisiting myself and my writing during a time when a lot was going on for me personally.

As you write a blog from day-to-day, you don't worry about contradicting yourself, nor do you try to trace the patterns that connect Today with Yesterday. Instead, you focus on Right Here, Right Now as you try to capture the mood and moment of a particular spot in time. Over the last two and a half years, Keene has remained pretty much the same...but I've gotten both a doctorate and a divorce during that time, and this weekend I re-visited the posts I'd written immediately after my separation, wondering the entire time how to make a consistent, coherent narrative out of a Self who transformed herself so mightily right about halfway into the story.

One of my favorite passages from Walt Whitman might be an appropriate motto as I continue revising these posts. "Do I contradict myself," Whitman asks in his bombastically long "Song of Myself." "Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" My blog, I'm discovering, is a lot like Whitman's "Song of Myself": it's large, and it contains multitudes. Revision is about going back and making sense of it all, so I have a pretty big task ahead of me. Luckily, I'm the type of person who thrills at the prospect of Another Huge Project, so we'll see how my stamina holds up over the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


After having allowed this blog to go inactive at the end of last year's Nanowrimo madness, I'm resuscitating it for a different purpose. As I explained in my New Year's Day post, one of my goals for 2006 is to self-publish a book culled from my Hoarded Ordinaries posts. This morning, I officially began that process, going back to my very first blog entry and "paging" through every subsequent post, copying and pasting the potentially reworkable ones into a BIG word-processing document which I plan to revise, polish, and somehow transform into a book...eventually. I've already copied and pasted 170-some pages of single-spaced text, and I'm only halfway through 2004. (!!!)

I say I will "somehow" revise these posts because the biggest challenge in transforming a blog to a book is finding the narrative arc: what's the "point" that ties everything together? Given the "little picture" of many words written since December 27, 2003, what's the Big Picture? What sort of story, conflict, or question will pull readers into this particular Book of Days: what will keep people reading a tangible book full of Ordinaries rather than opting for other more exciting entertainment?

Revision, I tell my students, is the process of re-visiting...and re-visiting a blog is especially odd as you catch glimpses of your past Self shimmering between the lines. There's been a lot of water under the proverbial bridge since December, 2003, and I seem to have blogged every drop of it. So if you want to listen in as I revisit My Words and My Selves, here's a spot where you can eavesdrop. As much as I'm smitten with the promise of a publishing An Actual Book that readers can hold, I'm equally interested in the process of revision: what happens when you chronicle your life in daily portions and then find the courage to revisit those bits?