Samara O'Shea

Archive for August, 2008

The Wisdom of C. Day-Lewis

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

This is my third blog in one week. Hooray! I knew once I wrote about being a better (or at least more active) blogger and went so far as to say it aloud then I was in real trouble. But the act of writing has come through again as I managed to light a fire under my own ass.

This blog is a short one.

While perusing this morning I came across an excellent quote by C. Day-Lewis. Initially, I read the name too quickly and thought it was C.S. Lewis. I thought Ah! My beloved atheist-turned-Evangelical-Christian writer strikes again with his words of wisdom. Then I felt like a fool when I realized I got the name wrong. Cecil Day-Lewis, actual owner of the quote, was a poet and also father of Daniel Day-Lewis. Neat. In any event, the Irish-born poet sums up one of the many purposes of writing into elegant prose:

“I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it…. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.”
~ C. Day Lewis

George Orwell’s Journal

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I’ve often wondered what the great minds of old would think of our modern-day practice of putting our insights, opinions, passions, and complaints online the way we do. What would Benjamin Franklin’s blog look like? I’m confident in saying that Franklin would have been all over the practice: I won’t speak so assuredly for anyone else.

Jean Seaton, a professor at the University of Westminster in London, is confident that novelist George Orwell would have been a blogger as he tells the New York Times. Seaton is so sure of Orwell the Blogger that he, and a team of other scholars, have started posting Orwell’s diaries in blog form. I applaud this act. I loved it when I found Samuel Pepys diary online, and I love Orwell’s, too. It’s an excellent way to introduce these literary heavyweights to the young whippersnappers. It’s also great for people like me who enjoy reading diaries but have trouble reading them straight through—an entry a day is ideal. I think we need to be careful, however, not to think this is what the Orwell and Pepys blogs really would have been like had they had access to the electronic means. The entries are being taken from journal entries. A journal entry is something you write—inspired by the moment—for yourself. A blog post is something you write—also under the influence of the moment—knowing that an audience will read it. This undoubtedly changes the approach and the tone of the write-up. I write nonsense in my journal that I would never dream of posting on my blog, and I wax poetic on my blog in ways that I never would in my journal. I get a kick out of blogging because it truly is its own genre of writing. It’s more formal than a journal entry but less formal than an actual article. It’s a blog!

Had Orwell or Pepys known an audience was imminent they probably would have written their “blogs” in a different way. They would have commented more heavily on the political scandals of the day and spent less time writing about the weather (Orwell) and infidelities (Pepys). This is not a criticism of either diarist. I find it endearing that Orwell is so consistent with noting the weather in his journal, and what makes a diary more vibrant than the sexual indiscretions? I just want everyone to remember that these are online journal entires and not blogs.

Emily Giffin’s Diary

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

I read the first chapter of Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With last week. It was one of three books that I read the first chapters of (the other two will remain nameless) to determine which one I wanted to read first. Ms. Giffin’s lime green novel won by a charming landslide. A few days later, my sister asked if she could borrow one of my books to read on the beach. I handed over Love the One You’re With because I had decided it was the most likeable of the three—keep in mind this is based only on the first chapter, and many books don’t come through for you until the middle. While waiting patiently for this book to make its way back to me, I stopped by Emily’s Web site to see what I could see. I found a gem of a hyperlink! Under 1983 on her timeline of a bio page, Emily reveals two pages of her elementary school diary and admits to writing in her diary daily for two decades. Now, I’m a diarist, but I don’t write everyday. Perhaps if I did I’d be a bestselling author by now, too. It’s something to consider . . .

This Saturday . . .

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Calling all civilians in the greater Philadelphia area: I’ll be teaching a journal writing workshop this Saturday from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. at Book Corner (311 North 20th Street). Here’s the course description, but we’ll make it what we want it to be. A reading group. A therapy session. A game of duck duck goose. A grand old time. Hope to see you there!

I Was Afraid This Would Happen

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

I was thrilled to update my Web site earlier this summer. It needed a fresh coat of paint. During the renovation process I decided to move my blog page from the back to the front, and here it is before you on the opening page of the site. I was nervous about this—fearing I couldn’t keep up with the blog—and my fears have come to fruition. It’s been almost a month since I’ve mused on this page. It’s not that I don’t want to or that I’m void of ideas—just the opposite actually. I really want to and have plenty of ideas. I have ideas for this blog and my Huffington Post blog (the HP blogs are usually twice as long and more article like, which is how I differentiate). It’s finding time to spread the ideas out that I’m not so good at.

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me his New Year’s resolution was that he would not make resolutions only at New Years. I second that notion (!) and resolve to be a more active blogger right now. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to a point where I post daily (though I admire the day-to-day bloggers more than you know), but if I can get two fresh posts up a week I’ll be satisfied. In honor of my mid-summer resolution, I leave you with two short journal entries by Lewis Carroll—author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He amassed thirteen journals in his lifetime. His entries were never very long, and they usually went right to the point. I share the first entry with you because he, like me, made a resolution on a random day. I share the second one because I find it amusing.

May 18, 1856
I am getting into habits of unpunctuality, and must try to make a fresh start in activity: I record this resolution as a test for the future.

June 30, 1857
. . .so ends my five months stay at Oxford, during which I have learned almost nothing, taught not much more, and forgotten a great deal.