Random Thoughts

About writing

... simply thoughts that popped into my head.

by Ed Boyd


A few years ago, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I found myself wanting to write about things, events, and happenings that I was prompted to remember from years past. The subject matter was simply thoughts that popped into my head. One of the first stories was a memory of sitting on the kitchen floor at age 4 or 5 while Ma was washing dishes and a little mouse appeared. This story I called ESCAPE that I later wrote as a poem, FEISTY. Another was about Swan St. Park, the playground of my youth. This was the TWENTY FOOTER, a special piece of fence that was erected in the late thirties. I wrote a “peek-a-boo” story, THROUGH THE WINDOW, ‘44 and another about a special older friend, CECIL, I knew as a youngster. More recently, my thoughts have carried me into early adult life with, WINTHROP ’54, 10 WARREN ST., and STORY OF MARTHA. Another prominent feature of my most recent writing has been about the variety of medical problems that have befallen me. This writing I take to be an effort to solve the inexplicable. In these stories, OH’ WHATS HAPPENING TO ME, SKIN CANCER, and WHISPERING ED seem to want to explain any malady as absurd, close to laughable.

As I’ve worked on these stories I’ve often been uneasy about lacking a framework or formula for putting these stories together. Crafting the stories has been a bit done through imitation. Two of my favorite writers in the world are John Steinbeck and Raymond Carver. It’s the simple clear language entwined with profundity, at which both writers excel. This is what I hope for in my own writing. I work at wanting to have an important story pleasingly told. Maybe that’s what every writer hopes for?

Also, I have benefited immeasurably from the Cambridge Adult Education writing course offered by Jane Katims, writer, poet, therapist, and the many fine writers that gather around her. The chance to read and hear from others of how they think and go about writing, what they have to say about each other’s writing is always illuminating.

Another important source for exploring the meaning of non-fiction “recollections” are writers like Vivian Gornick, THE SITUATION AND THE STORY: the art of personal narrative. Gornick begins her instruction into the meaning of personal narrative by offering her memory of hearing one special eulogist among many give tribute to her deceased mentor. Of all, this particular woman in her forties, trained by the deceased, “…moved me to that melancholy evocation of world-and-self that makes a single person’s death feel large.” Gornick goes on to speculate why she was so moved. She says, “It was the texture that had stirred me; caused me to feel, with powerful immediacy, not only the actuality of the woman being remembered but - even more vividly - the presence of the one is doing the remembering.” The relationship between mentor and novice was “strong but vexing”. As Gornick thought further about the moving eulogy, “I saw how central the eulogist herself had been to its effectiveness.” She heard the speaker (writer) vividly from the recesses of their past, “…sharply alive to the manner and appearance of a teacher at once profoundly intelligent and profoundly cutting.”

It is in the writing I work at, in being with others so occupied and listening to the words of effective writers that moves me along. My hope in sharing these thoughts will encourage other writers to take up a pen.

February 6, 2009

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