Saturday, August 27, 2011


My title above could be a subtitle for our course, Personal Writing.

There’s an urgency to that imperative clause, “write for your life,” a spin-off from the more familiar “Run for your life!”  And if you’re drawn to take Personal Writing because you think writing first-person essays (which is our business) appeals to you, then you may already anticipate a certain urgency in the process of such composition.  Compositions of this kind invoke self-composure.  They induce, in the course of their writing, a kind of orderliness and completeness that life on the run, the busy life, lacks.

To compose a personal essay requires you to sit down, settle down, contemplate, wait, and see what arises in your poised and eager mind—and then to let thoughts roll out in language across the lines of the page under your hand.  I’ll assume that you, like me, find the manual scriptorial process gentler and more elemental than typing on a computer—low-tech but high tactility.  The pen is a magic wand that touches paper and produces durable yet easily modified language.

Besides the implicit therapeutic benefits to your life from simply invoking a state of contemplative composure, your personal writing enlightens your life by urging out of you perceptions, connections and insights that express and articulate themselves even as your writing rolls out on the ball point of your pen, leaving the track your mind has taken and lain down for others to follow.

Letter by letter, figure by figure, you figure out what’s on and in your mind while thought is teased from your brain by a hand ready and eager to inscribe the impulses of emerging language.  A structure of thought shapes up right under your hand, a miracle of emergence: Presto!  There it is!  Your life enlarged.