Too Many Details, Not Enough Story

Facing yet again a long silence from one blog post to the next, I stumbled on this passage from Amit Chaudhuri’s first novel A Strange and Sublime Address. I know that he’s talking about story telling and not blog posting, but I immediately thought of how often I get an idea for a blog post that doesn’t materialize simply because whatever it is that holds the details together in my mind melts away. Perhaps more to the point, I think of my significant other urging me to “Get to the point!” as she listens to me tell a story that she really wants to hear, but also wants to hear it quickly enough to get back to her work.

I struggle with this, not only because I really (really) want to be writing regularly, but also because I’m persuaded by Rebecca Solnit’s insistence that stories make a life. But when I attempt to construct any sort of narrative, I find myself struggling over the details, questioning the perspective I’m trying to take, doubting the validity of the supposed insight that prompted the attempt to create the narrative. A dear friend urges me to write more of my own thoughts. “…you quote a wide variety of thoughtful writers, you stop short of writing what you think; you don’t engage their thinking/writing. I want very much to read your thoughts about the quotes you post.” Point taken – I’d like to read my thoughts as well.

And, after all, surely the most important reason for writing in any sort of public forum is to invite others to help one think more clearly, more rigorously. The story that makes the life that I’m living is one that I tell in community with the others around me, even when my story remains largely implicit in the day-to-day choices that I make, rather than explicitly stated in writing. Perhaps, as Arendt suggests, I need to find courage in my cowardice.

It’s fascinating to me that, although I began this post with the selection from Chaudhuri’s novel in mind, it didn’t occur to me until I was actually writing it to bring Solnit and Arendt into the discussion. I decided when I started writing this blog over a year ago to include the commonplace entries because I thought such brief insights were worth reading and worth saving. But I’m starting to see that having them in the blog might push me to engage with them more directly. I need to reflect more carefully on why I think they’re worth reading and saving, and do more to hold up my side of the story telling that creates the life that we’re living together. I’ve not done much with that here, but at least it’s a beginning move toward the building of both a larger story.

So, thanks to the friend who engaged me – even challenged me – to hold up my side of the story.