Day: July 2, 2009

the experience of composition

Occasionally, I regret not having been an undergraduate at an American College.

A friend who’s doing his PhD in the States tells me that his contemporaries seem to have two advantages: (i) they tend to be more able and confident when it comes to expressing themselves — especially on the spot; and (ii) they are almost univsersally far more widely read — which, taking my friend as a yardstick, says a lot. A lot.

I guess advantage number (i) could be attributed to the mandatory Composition classes liberal arts students do. Ahhh, to be forced to learn how to write (and speak) persuasively … it warms my heart. Truly.

1291 | Visual Culture Calligraphy

Visual Culture Calligraphy by Bazstyle, on Flickr

I’ve been reflecting on this — and the relative gap in my own education — because I’ve been trying to write some fiction lately. Don’t worry, I’m not going to inflict it on you. It’s not particularly good.

What I’m really enjoying is the experience of composition. The patience it requires. The attention. The time (and space). And the delightful way your own imaginative creations can sort of …┬ásurprise you.

It’s truly challenging to discover that the logic of the material you’re working with — and thus its situations and characters — isn’t infinitely malleable. You learn that you can’t just make things happen however you want. Or make it say whatever you want. You’re answerable to your work as much as it’s answerable to you.

And this is something that demands a certain humility, a willingness to submit to and be disciplined by your own composition (which isn’t entirely your own).

Weird. In a cool way…