Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Muse - 1, Andrea - 0

I sat down tonight to start working on a submission to a magazine, and realized with dismay just how accustomed I've grown to writing in academese (e.g. I keep wanting to buttress things with quotes). An argumentative stance has become second nature after ten years of university (many who know me would say it’s always been my only nature) and while I used to spend a lot of my free time writing for pleasure rather than publication it’s something I've drifted further and further away from the past few years. Some of the rules of good writing still apply – clear language, active voice, absolutely everything in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which you all should read – but academic writing has a distinctly different flavour. I won’t be coy: academic writing is pretentious. Even the relatively recent shift to the first-person as a way for the critic to acknowledge her own position and its blindspots doesn’t really compensate, and can often come off as aggrandizing. I'll admit I'm floundering a bit with this piece, my pinky finger is regularly arching up to the backspace key. I'm really excited about writing this, since it’s a memoir of my years in journalism school (the epigraph is my favourite line from State and Main: “It’s not a lie, it’s a gift for fiction”), and I've covered sheets of lined paper (I think better writing longhand) with posterity-worthy moments as they come back to me, like covering the hullabaloo about Elisha the flamingo, I'm just struggling with how to put it all together in a way that doesn’t scream “She’s a grad student! Get her!” If I'm still wrestling with this tomorrow night I may just grab a bottle of brain juice (a.k.a. red wine) and see if that helps. It certainly made journalism school itself easier. Method writing.


Blogger Alexandre said...

The problem with academese isn't so much that it messes up with our brains permanently (after all, we still can blog, can't we?) but that it carries with it the notion of its own absolute relevance. My personal struggle has been with the switch from French «touffu» writing (dense, obscure, scattered, esoteric, idiosyncratic) to English "plain" writing. More than about mastering a style, it's about learning a new set of cognitive constraints.

4:40 AM  

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