Ideas of March, Essays, and Diving Down the Rabbit Hole
I guess, overall, the day was pretty significant.
It was election day. George Bush would go on to win his second term as president, and my favorite band released a new album after a bit of a hiatus. I remember I was home from school early. I was a sophomore in high school and had taken two mid-terms that morning. I’m not really sure how it happened. Maybe it was an accident. All I know is I started something that I haven’t been able to shake off. And I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say it changed my life.
The French philospher Michel de Montaigne is credited with the invention of what we today call the “essay.” His massive autobiographical work, Essai, was a collection of short thoughts on a variety of topics, most with simple titles like “Of Friendship” or “Of Solitude.” Sarah Bakewell, in her biography on Montaigne, How To Live writes “Essayer, in French, means simply to try. To essay something, is to test or taste it, or give it a whirl.”
An essay then, isn’t quite what we learned how to write in school with their strict formatting and perfectly articulated thesis. An essay, to me, is more like jazz. I start writing with an idea but then it twists and moves to the clickity clack of my keyboard. An essay is a question begging for probing and testing and sometimes it finds the answer but sometimes you discover something else entirely. The essay asks that you follow it down the rabbit hole.
It feels strange to say that starting a blog changed my life, but it some strange way it did. There are few things in my life that I’ve stayed committed to for seven years. Things have changed since I was a sophomore in high school. My long hair is now neatly trimmed and parted on the side. My biggest worries are no longer acne and girls, but now graduation and looking for a job. Yet, strangely, throughout it all, blogging has been a constant. The things I post about have changed, the quality of my writing improved, but the thing that drove me to start that little blog on Blogspot on that half day after struggling through my Chemistry midterm is the same reason I blog today.
In Stephen King’s wonderful On Writing, he talks about the ideal reader, that one person who you are specifically writing for, that person you want to please. Sometimes I feel like I am my own ideal reader. Most of the time, I write for myself, to fill some need within me. A question, a concern, something I can’t wrap my head around; writing about it helps me articulate it. Give it a whirl. Most of the things I write no one else will ever see.
But what of this blogging thing? Why publish these thoughts—these essays—for the world to see? Good writing moves people. I’m indebted to Irving Stone for writing Lust for Life and John Steinbeck for East of Eden. These books changed me. They added something to life.
My blog has changed and morphed and grew with me through high school and then in college. I’ve gotten jobs from this blog and have connected more wonderful people than I can imagine, both virtually and in real life because of this blog. I grew as a person, a designer, a writer, and a friend. People I’ve never met have cheered from the sidelines as I enter the design field. Because of this blog, it seems like I have a support system around the world, cheering me on. It’s like being a part of a family. A weird, diverse, dysfunctional, loving family. And I am forever grateful that I get to sit at the blogging table next to you.
Bakewell goes on that by sharing what makes us different, we discover what makes us the same: being human. That’s what this blog is for, I can’t do that in 140 characters. I’m no Montaigne or Stone or Steinbeck, but I have a story. And so do you. So together, if we continue sharing our stories, we’ll see that we are more alike than we thought. Let’s reclaim the blog and use it to connect with each other on a deeper level as we tell stories together.
So here’s to writing, let us jump down the rabbit hole and see where it takes us as our words dance to the clickity clacking.
Here’s to our stories, let us connect them and connect to each other.
And here’s to blogging, thanks for being a platform where we learn, grow, and question together. I’m not sure why I started a blog on that half day during my sophomore year of high school, but I’m glad I did.