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Comfortable structures (#1046)

Topics/tags: Meta-musings, On writing

One of the many issues that The Craft of Creative Nonfiction is getting me to think about is the way in which you order a piece. You don’t have to tell stories in chronological order. I knew that. And it’s not just written stories; I already knew that playing with narrative order can make a big difference in movies.

In any case, the discussion of ordering started me thinking about the musings. Part of my style, such as it is, is the structure of my musings. I typically start with an introduction that sets the stage. Sometimes it’s explicit, as in this case. At other times, it’s a story. If the introduction goes on for more than a few paragraphs, I tend to write something like But that’s not the point of this musing. Then I go on to reflect for a bit, or to rant for a bit, or to employ some other r-verb. I close with a final thought, comment, or question. Speaking of questions, I also tend to ask questions along the way and then answer them.

Does that have to be the way I write? Let’s try something different, using a tone similar to that of my first work for the aforementioned class.

You click the link to bring up the next in the series of SamR’s Assorted Musings & Rants. You chuckle a bit; not at the acronym itself, but that I think the acronym is amusing. You know what’s up next. After a few tags that broadly describe the piece, I’ll set the stage, usually in a paragraph or two. Sometimes I’ll tell a longer story. If I write enough, I’ll often add But that’s not the point of this musing. Then I’ll ramble on for a bit. I’ll go on longer if I have too much to say, or if I have too little to say. Along the way, I’ll insert asides that only I find humorous, placing them in endnotes, more often than not. I’ll attempt to wrap up with a short statement or question. And you’ll be done. Or perhaps not. Since I can rarely incorporate everything I want to say, I’ll add a postscript or more. I may even endnote them.

It’s a comfortable rhythm, one you expect. Perhaps the comfort of that rhythm is what leads you to read these pieces. What if I broke that rhythm. Rearranged my paragraphs. Started with my conclusion or with an uncontextualized narrative. Failed to conclude. Made no jokes Included no endnotes. Would it surprise you? Disorient you? Would you stop reading? Would I stop writing? Or would you be pleased to finally see some variety, to watch me escape from a deep rut that I have driven myself into?

I wonder.

But that’s not the point of this musing. No, wait, it is. What I meant to say was that’s not the structure I normally employ in musing. So let’s return to the normal structure.

I find myself wondering whether I should experiment more with order. My typical musing follows an order. My typical rant follows a similar order. Being in the class helped me realize that. Perhaps I knew it already. More importantly, the class makes me ask whether or not I should continue that order. Is it essential to my voice? Does it make it easier for me to write? My primary goal in musing has always been to share ideas, information, concerns, and frustrations. It’s often easy to spew a traditionally ordered musing, except, perhaps, for the final paragraph. Other orders may make things more lively, but will it be as easy for you to extract the point? I also care a bit about how it will affect my audience. Do some of you read because you appreciate the predictability? Will I pick up other readers if I vary my style? These are things I must reflect on.

Oh, wait. I’ve reflected on those issues in this musing. But I have not come up with a conclusion. I’ll need to reflect more.

What do you think?

Postscript: This musing is clearly not a normal one: It lacks endnotes!

Postscript: Choosing a strong structure is hard. Writing good sentences is even harder. When I write for class, I write at less than one-fourth the rate I write, say, administrative documents. I don’t muse at quite the rate I write administrivia, but it’s still much faster than my formal creative writing. Is that speed something I’m willing to sacrifice? I’m not sure.

Version 1.0 of 2020-04-11.