Oberlin Blogs

The Annals of Blogging

February 18, 2009

John West ’10

I've settled into a kind of routine when it comes to blogging: I wake, make some coffee, put on some tunes, burn my mouth on too-hot coffee, curse, stare blankly at the screen, and don't post anything.

You see the problem.

But a line must be drawn; it's time to post. And since I can't bring myself to write about anything even mildly interesting (or, for that matter, post-able), I think I'll try writing about my inability to write.

But look at that paragraph! Look at it! It's terrible. Even as I type this, I'm finding it hard to resist the urge to delete that paragraph and start over again. The prose is circuitous, labyrinthine. The rhythm is all off, the sentence structure atrocious. And look at this paragraph. Look at it. Circuitous? Labyrinthine? The abracadabra of multi-syllabic words can only do so much to hide vapid content. Whatever.

I'm taking a private reading in Rhetoric and Composition. Basically I read a bunch of magazines (The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, The Believer, The Nation), and look for patterns, then write about them. There are four other students taking this reading with me--all writing about different things--and every Friday we get together and workshop what we've written. This month, the pattern I honed in on was writing about writing. Of course the writers for these A-List magazines do a better job of it than I do; after all, (1) I'm a college student, not a professional writer, and (2) right now, my writing reads like a middle schooler's who just discovered the thesaurus.

Maybe that's part of the problem. That is, maybe all of this reading about writing about writing has gotten me over-thinking things. Look at this passage from Gary Lutz's recent article in The Believer, "The Sentence is a Lonely Place":

Writing is rich to the extent that the drama of the subject matter is supplemented or deepened by the drama of the letters within the words as they inch their way closer to each other or push significantly off. (no link; subscription only)

Look at that. I defy you to read and think about and write about four articles full of passages like that and not end up befuddled and unable to write.

That's a cheap excuse. After all, all those English majors and Creative Writing types read this kind of stuff all the time, and they're able to write. The other bloggers here don't seem to have many problems keeping up with their posting--or, at least, keeping up better than I.

Maybe the problem is that I'm taking two philosophy classes, with esoteric readings that make me want to pull my hair out. And all this reading has left me unable to write clearly and concisely. Pouring through Wittgenstein's near-impenetrable prose, replete with passages like: "If I give someone the order 'fetch me a red flower from that meadow', how is he to know what sort of flower to bring, as I have only given him a word?"
I mean, come on.

But that's probably not it, either. There are plenty of philosophy majors who scale these kinds of readings all of the time. Not only do they end up understanding them, when they reach the summit, they are able to reflect on the reading they've just climbed. (Seriously, John, that's your analogy?)

Well, I've hit the 600-word mark, and I managed to make it here after only two hours of painful peck-and-hunt. Unfortunately, I lack a graceful exit from this naval-gazing drivel masquerading as a blog post. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe the next day, when I wake up, switch my computer on, and sip my coffee, this curse will be broken and my writers' block (writers' malaise?) will be gone. Maybe.

Responses to this Entry


The one rule they tell us in writing classes is not to write about the process of writing.

No, really. It's like writing about the ether. It messes you up. You've got to set up the fourth wall before you break it. Or write on it. Or pee on it. Whatever.


Posted by: Aries on February 19, 2009 12:59 AM



Posted by: john on February 19, 2009 1:08 AM

NSFW, but valid:


Posted by: Captain Captain on February 19, 2009 5:05 PM

This was fantastic. I enjoyed it all :) If, however, you get stuck again, I can't recommend highly enough Ralph Keyes' "The Courage to Write." Much like your above post, it's witty, amusing, at times self-deprecating, and ultimately of great comfort to the rest of us who know that writing is every bit as much about the art of procrastination as the rest of it...

Posted by: Yitka on February 21, 2009 6:11 PM

Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is nice, too. Even if you're still blocked after reading it, at least she offers entertaining, sympathetic anecdotes about the inability to start the writing process.

Also, Wittgenstein? He RULES. I can't believe you'd diss him! (:

(Yeah, I know this is a late response, but the link from your Oberliner page wasn't working, so I just now read this. Cool (other) blog!)

Posted by: Brian on April 16, 2009 11:58 PM

Leave a Comment

Similar Blog Entries

A Letter to Pre-Oberlin Me

January 13, 2023

Charlize Villasenor

There will be countless days and nights that you’ll hold in your heart, maybe too many to fully remember, but I promise you’ll love the experience and you’ll grow exactly into who you need to be.