Today, I took a walk with my daughter, Sage, pushing her stroller around the neighborhood where I grew up. While I was walking, it occurred to me that I was likely to blog about it, and I pondered how to make it interesting and appealing.
Then it occurred to me: I’m a writer. Part of the trouble in that line of thought is that I actually know several ways to write it, depending on my goal. And maybe that’s what I should be writing about — different ways to approach writing about something.
I’m going to write this as a series — probably not over consecutive days, because I’m sure I’ll have other things about which to blog, but occasionally, to talk about writing while also managing to blog about my life (because, face it, that’s most of what I do here). When reading this, please bear in mind that I will use terminology that probably is not used by professional creative writing teachers. It’s the terminology I use for myself, whether or not it has any sort of academic approval.
Today, I’ll start with one method for writing about the walk that I took today.
The first approach is to write it as I do most blog posts — shielded introspection. This style of writing is really best used for blogs, because it combines personal revelation with a recognition that some of the deepest, darkest things, when blogged, could hurt others around you (and so avoids those issues). Some would definitely argue that the best blogs are ones in which the writers are completely exposed, personally; I would argue that they may be the most titillating blogs, and they may even be the most fun to read, but I can’t read them without thinking about what sort of damage the writer may be doing to their existing relationships.
The risk in using the shielded introspection approach is that sometimes, being shielded can lead to complete boredom on the part of the reader — and if you’re not writing for a reader, you don’t need to blog it or otherwise publish it (so write however you want). The best shielded introspection posts share something about the writer, but avoid risking current relationships.
Here is my walk as written from this approach:
When we first set out from the driveway of my parents’ house, I talked quietly to Sage in her stroller, telling her a few details about my memories of the street… but those memories quickly ran dry. Sage continued to stare at me, fascinated, when I confessed that I really hadn’t gotten to know any of the neighbors during the eight years I lived there and the three years I regularly came home from college. In fact, I didn’t know the name of anyone on the street except the next-door neighbor who moved in long after I had moved to Indiana, and even his name I wasn’t completely sure about. We walked up one block and turned to the right, and I had already run out of memories about the area.
Before we started the walk, I had decided on the route: east one block, south three, and then weaving up and down the blocks to come home. We made the first turn, and I told her the street name, and said, “And now we’re going three blocks over, to…” and trailed off. I didn’t know the name of the street where we were going. In fact, I didn’t even know the name of the street two blocks over. I knew my street; the two streets it intersected; and the two streets that flanked it on either side. And with those two streets, I had reasons for knowing them; the one to the north was necessary to take in order to get to the school I had attended or any of the jobs I had held, and the one to the south I occasionally ran or biked on. I couldn’t remember having ever gone two blocks south, let alone three.
“I lived here for eight years,” I told Sage, but in digging through my memories, most of them were limited to my house, and a high percentage of those memories were in my room.
I spent years thinking about moving out of Syracuse. Now, I wondered if I had ever really been in Syracuse.
We reached the road that I didn’t know, where we were turning west.
There was no street sign.
I looked at the houses as I walked, still talking to Sage about squirrels and birds and the importance of traffic safety. Even more than I had anticipated after having lived in Indiana for over a decade, the surroundings were unfamiliar. I didn’t know this neighborhood at all.