Saturday, November 29, 2008

Base Words Are Uttered

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneSunset on the Pacific Ocean
Base words are uttered only by the base
And can for such at once be understood,
But noble platitudes:--ah, there’s a case
Where the most careful scrutiny is needed
To tell a voice that’s genuinely good
From one that’s base but merely has succeeded.

Wystan Hugh Auden.

I like to let a draft post cure a day or so before publishing it. Quite frequently, after this time, some drafts get the heave. This one was lucky. But I’m sure many will feel it should have joined the reject pile, along with a few others I've posted.

Gina Mink’s post, and her own reply to it, got me thinking – about all sorts of things. Apart from the bother I had getting a comment, with a link, onto her post, perhaps the time spent attempting to do this allowed me to think more about how I write posts.

Is my approach unique?

I wondered if my approach is one often used by others. I’m aware that the twenty-first century culture that is held by some bloggers, is such that most do not dwell on the crafting. To them, getting the message across is where it’s at. I’ve no problem with that.

I study poetry. I enjoy reading the skilled writing of others. From time to time, I come across blogs that are well writtenalmost crafted, and I can only admire those.

The Fire And The Anvil:

I recently re-read a wonderful little book by New Zealand’s celebrated poet James K Baxter. The Fire and the Anvil is a brilliant series of lectures. They are about the product of poets whose craft is forged in the fire of the creative mind. It's then hammered into shape by feedback from critics that alters the way the poets write. It is a reflective practice that involves the writing, the poets and their audience.

Much though I would like to bash out a post and publish it in ten minutes, I can’t often do this. Too often I want to go back and alter things. Some call it stuffing mushrooms.

I might even change a word or two after a post is published - almost heresy in some circles. Dave Ferguson has crafted a few posts on and around the topic of editing posts.

But from the moment I think about a post, I am aware that I’m following much of the process that Baxter refers to in his book:

The World Of Thou:

It “denotes the whole various world of relationship where being meets being.”

The Matrix:

“The primal substance of the” post, “non-verbal, which the verbal structure” of the post reflects – “its point of contact with the world of Thou.”

The Form:

“The whole complex verbal pattern” which the writer creates in response to the matrix.


Baxter’s period of gestation, “during which the matrix is carried obscurely in the mind”, is not unlike how the substance of the post is thought about before anything is entered through the keyboard or other interface.

Texture and Time-life:

These have their counterparts in the diction and crafting used by the writer. Sentence length and construction, the way each sentence sits with the paragraph, and paragraph length, are parameters that expert bloggers tell us are important to writing good blog posts.

All of these parts of the post writing process have closely corresponding items in Baxter’s sequence.

The crafting and how it helps me:

For me the crafting is part of the reflective practice of writing a post. It’s not just the diction and the paragraphing. It’s to do with the thought processes that lead up to that.

Ken Stewart wrote a post Why Do You Write.
It prompted me to write a comment which I later copied with little alteration and put it in a post. This was one of the few times I posted without crafting. But it had the essence of why I write, how I write and all of what’s in it for me.
  • Writing helps me organise my thoughts.

  • Prioritising those sparks further thought.

  • Organising what I write puts to rest serendipitous thought-threads.
When these are processed through exhaustive cycles of writing and editing, it is as if the thoughts are put to rest. I can sleep on them.

More reflective practice:

There’s more to blogging than just writing exhaustively edited posts – I’m trying to avoid those. Lately I’ve made use of action research as a means to develop my way of writing posts.

While I have not yet used blogging specifically as a teaching tool, it has helped me organise my thoughts about how I teach. This in itself is powerful reflective practice.

Of course, action research is reflective practice. It can be widely applied to more or less any people-related activity. And like it or not, writing a post is a people-related activity.
Haere rā – Farewell


Sue Waters said...

It's always fascinating the processes we each go through writing our posts. Nadine, a student from the blogging competition, and I had an interesting discussion about this.

She always chooses her title first before she write anything. Whereas I choose my title as the last step once I've written my post. First content, then images, previewing and proof reading, tags, categories and finally the title.

Rarely hold a post in draft mode, and if I do it normally doesn't get published. Like to just get it done.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Sue!

Choosing the title before starting the writing task is a good practice for writing certain types of literature, especially if it is commissioned. It is one I use when I write a manual - of any description.

In fact, when I was a computer trainer in the 80s - early 90s, I was often confronted with the task of writing a manual. In those days the thing would be published with a coloured pattern cover and ring-bound.

Writing a manual for an extensive database or the like was an A1 task. So I ALWAYS began with choosing the title AND the Contents list. I would even type it up and format it so that it looked like the finished article.

But this is mind preparation for an A1 task - nothing really to do with the creative mask. There was little right-brain thinking in those jobs.

The title of a post usually comes about half to three-quarters way through writing it, for me. Sometimes it doesn't actually gel till I'm about to publish.

I'm curious about this now. What you have identified for me is what I'd say is the difference between left-brain logic and construction and right-brain imagination and creation. Both of these can be motivating, but the end results may be fundamentally different in texture.

Thanks for making me think more about this :-)

Catchya later

Ken Stewart said...

Ken, I wonder if you are indeed using Blogging as a teaching tool. In your previous post you wrote:

"But for this to happen, the teacher/trainer must mediate in a way that initiates and maintains learner participation. In the main, learners won’t participate just because there are wonderful things to learn."

In point of practice you are indeed fulfilling the role of both teacher and learner.

Thank you for your kind link, but what I find most rewarding is the conversation it generated - and the spark it caused in your thought process. That is truly a wonderful thing to witness.

I'm sure you can relate to this feeling :-)

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Ken

Thanks for this thought.

Your quote (I had to search a bit) came from my post Elearning Engagement. The context of it is quite involved.

In a situation where student engagement is encouraged, the teacher mediates through the application of various different techniques.

One of these techniques can be practiced by the blogger who posts, by engaging in (comment) conversations. There are many other techniques, involving contact directly with the student (by email, phone, letter if necessary etc).

Blogging is a learning tool. Whether the blogger is seen as a teacher or not depends on your point of view. I see that role more of facilitator, in the context of the post. Any learning that takes place can be as a result of many different things happening. The most enriching of those being not the post necessarily, but (as you say) the conversation it generated.

I have learnt so much from the comments of others. I suspect that those reading the blog are also making learning connections through this same avenue.

Catchya later