Writing as Philosophical Form of Living
To learn to write well is to learn to write pungently—with one’s own presence in the writing. To learn to write well requires two things, and two more. First, to read well. Second, to observe well. And two more: observation can survey the external world or the internal world; to observe well is to attend to one’s surroundings and to think well. I might also add that acting intensively in the world produces connections to bring into one’s observational sphere.
But all of these skills are organically involved with one another. To write well increases one’s powers of observation, and so on. Hence, students in this course will spend much time reading, watching, thinking, and writing.
Learning to write well can occur in many forms, but in any case students should learn what tools are available to the writer and how to employ these to advance her skills. I include not only the instrument of writing and the writing surface, but also the hand and body-as-a-whole, punctuation, internal division, repetition and review, dreaming, and reading aloud. Surely others will be identified as we go.
Once you can write pungently, as yourself, you can write anything that the mundane worlds of business and politics might require. This course seeks to develop a basis for technical or professional writing by writing oneself forth into the world. It is a philosophical approach to writing.
In this course, I assume that there is no one best way to write. More drastically, the student should assume that writing cannot be taught, but that it can be learned. This demands assiduous attention within or following the task of writing. The teacher will inquire after the quality of your attention to reading, observing, and writing.
Note well that a controversial point is made in this course: that speaking and writing are no more closely related than playing football and lovemaking. Speaking and writing are two human practices, one concerned primarily with communication and the other with expression. These are not the same, and to speak well is not necessarily to write well. One might in fact possess discordant speaking and writing styles. It is no mark of the skilled writer that he writes like he speaks, even if he speaks fluently. At most, we will take speaking and writing to be two of the forms of intelligence.
- Your back to the audience. For whom does one write?
- The hand, the eye: a membrane formed by inside and outside
- Where do words come from? What can I do with them?
- What are you, and how are you a writer?
- Death Comes for the Writer