How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Style, Experience, and Philosophy

                                                       Tapev Monastery, Armenia.

Style … the question about its supposedly nebulous definition is rather cliché, so I’m not going to ponder it here. I’ve read good definitions of it recently so I don’t find it all that foggy. But, if you would indulge me, I’d like to ponder my style. I find discussions of other authors’ styles quite fascinating, so I thought I would do a little self-analysis here.

I confess: I love sounding intellectual rather than simplistic. I drool over the densely-packed writing of many a classic author like Mark Twain, Fanny Burney, and Charles Dickens and, to a point, wish I could emulate them. Perhaps a little pride is mixed into this, but overall I just want to be pleased with what I write. Lately several things have caused me to simplify my writing somewhat: in Six Cousins, the reality of its young adult audience has influenced me as I edit; the mostly devotional articles I write as assignments for my writing course need to be clear and to-the-point -- no dense sentences or flowery language allowed; even my newspaper article made an impact on me.

As I strip away the more elaborate elements of the way I express myself, at least in nonfiction, I seem to be left with often very basic ideas, which I don’t know is a good thing or a bad thing. My fiction is safe -- fiction has room for anything. But when I’m trying to communicate truths, I find my mind works simplistically. In other words, I’m not a philosopher. But … I want to be. There is so much that I don’t know, so many complicated things I don’t have a grasp on that need to be searched out … for defending my faith, for example. I love being able to understand complex subjects. I love giving my mind a workout.

But … what if my writing doesn’t reflect that? I’ve taken stock of my life and discovered I don’t have a great many experiences; and if one’s life doesn’t have experiences, one’s nonfiction writing tends to reflect that. Of course, it depends on what one is writing about -- everyone has a wide experience in at least one or two things, so if they’re writing about that, they’ll have awesome things to say about it. There are so many things, about the spiritual life, about science, about history, etc., that I wish I could comment on and sound intelligent about, but that I can’t seem to pull off. Which leaves me wondering … am I really that simple?

Lest you think I’m wandering from my style self-analysis, let’s get back to that. Style is the method of pouring out what’s inside you, and it says a lot about you. If my nonfiction style is simple, that means I’m simple, doesn’t it? Anything I truly understand has a simple feel to me, actually. Is that a problem? Perhaps not. The most important things in life, the ones that everyone is capable of grasping, are the simple things.

But -- I know that I better keep learning and building my mind, stone by stone. I can do that by experiencing life and by thinking deeply and by reading deep books -- and the reading deep books part is what I really wanted to get to in this post today. If I’m going to be building up my mind, I need to deposit stones and mortar in it, which means better reading than I’ve been doing. Here is a partial list of ideas:

Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers
Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
Sophy’s World, by Jostein Gaarder and Paulette Moller
Writings by Leo Tolstoy (I’m rather intrigued by snippets of his), Henry David Thoreau, and other philosophers and thinkers
Biographies of and writings by significant contributors to the history of society, such as Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass ….
Books by creation scientists
Any other ideas?
On a side note, I won’t be posting next Tuesday because I am going on a short trip to Fredericksburg, TX -- I should have a fun blog post to write next Friday!

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