A Writing Experiment

Well…  I think I will try to devote a few minutes per day—20 or more—to writing something.  I don’t know why I would bother to do this since I have nothing significant to say and have done or experienced nothing worth reporting.  I continue to exist mostly, and perhaps, at 72 years of age, that is something to report.  Not everybody lives till they are 72.  I note in the daily obits that many people have failed to live till 72.  Though I am not so sure that living to 72 means that one has been successful at anything.  Except existing, that is.

So I continue to exist at least at the moment, though tomorrow I may not.  Perhaps I could be doing something better with the little time I have remaining than this experiment with daily writing.  But I am not sure what that would be.  Eating?  Well, that is always worth doing.  But there’s a fixed limit to that.  One cannot eat continually.  Well, I suppose one could, and probably some people have, but I wouldn’t want to do it.  And doing something else would probably require more energy than I have at the moment.

But the question remains, why should I expend the little energy I do have, when I could be taking a nap, on this writing experiment?  I think a nap might be better.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I have read things that suggest the elderly benefit from creative activity, like taking a class in water colors, or something to that effect.  The theory appears to be that “creative” activity soothes the soul in some manner.  And writing, at least in the past, has served me to some degree and in some instances (not all my any means) this function.  The soothing or straightening out function, I mean.

I saw an ad for a book on this subject: the therapeutic effects, as it were, of neatening and straightening one’s stuff.  I should read it.  But I can’t remember where I saw the ad.  In any case, I know what they mean.  Neatening and straightening can make one feel an iota better.  And at my age and in my current horrible condition, I am looking for iotas.  An iota here and there, damn it, is what I need to get through the day.  At the moment though I don’t have the energy or a sense of purpose sufficient for me to do an actual, in reality, straightening and neatening, as in, imagine: the garage.

That garage is an albatross around my neck.  Every time I open that automatic door and look in, my heart contracts. Junk and crap about to tumble from overfull shelves.  Twenty years of indecision and neglect all piled in one place.  Overflowing with dust, and dirt, and grime.  And I feel a kind of responsibility to clean that place up before I go.  I mean I don’t want somebody else, probably my wife, to have to sort through that junk after I die as my brothers and I had to do through our parents crap: old clothes, napkins, pieces of metal, pictures and adult diapers.

Writing It Up; Writing It Down

This is a facile distinction. But I intend it playfully.

In my reading around in various documents and in listening to colleagues, I have heard frequently: “Then I wrote it up.”

I think there may be a good deal of difference between the concept of writing implied in “writing it up” and that other concept of writing called “writing it down.”

The writing it up conception of writing seems to be shorthand for something like: “Well, now I have done my research, be it empirical or book research, made my calculations, defined my methodology limitations, reached my conclusions, and now I am going to write it up.” I am not saying writing it up is the easy part; the rules governing writing in the sciences, in areas especially like physics, are incredibly complicated. One must know and follow the appropriate forms for writing it up; still these forms are given. One doesn’t, in writing it up, make up the rules for doing that.

The writing it down conception of writing would seem to be something else entirely…almost. I think it shorthand for the saying: “How do I know what I think till I see what I say.” When one is writing something down one does not necessarily know before hand one’s conclusions or even the general point that one might wise to make. When one is writing it down, one is attempting by the word (social in its very nature) to externalize some internal confusion, perplexity or even irritation and though that gain some insight or hold upon that very confusion, perplexity or irritation.

Henry James or Hegel–they wrote it down. They did not have thoughts or perceptions and then write them up. In fact, in the case of writing it down the distinction between thoughts (as something inside the head) and words (as necessarily outside the head because social) is tenuous indeed. When one writes it down one is trying to say what one thinks, and what one thinks is no more or less than what one has written down.

I guess I am old school (if there ever was an old school); the world is not heading my way. I believe fairly resolutely in the idea of writing as writing it down. But then I am not a scientist or empiricist. I have never been research oriented, though I recognize the value of it. In my particular educational experience, what proved of most value to my understanding of the world and of myself in relation to that came from writing it down. This was never easy, always a struggle. And unlike writing it up, there is no end really to writing it down.

I can’t say now and probably never will be able to say, “There! There! I have written it down.”