Day 38. too much?

“For many, the key may turn out to be some self-reflection, but not too much.”

This was the take-away point of a recent NYTimes article summarizing research on the benefits of writing (or, rather, “journaling,” ugh) for soothing hurt feelings.

If that is true, then I am in big trouble, as the younger flopsy-duckit would say. I started writing this blog to relieve anxiety, but I imagine it’s as obvious to you as it is to me that I don’t understand how to do “some self-reflection, but not too much.” Some is tricky for me; muchness is really my forte. I’d go so far as to say that muchness is my signature. Sympathetic readers of my work have described my style as “expansive” (that was you, Jayne! Your exact words were “clearly you are just an expansive girl”); less sympathetic readers have used the phrase “fatally repetitive” (I don’t know who that was but I’ve thought often about just how repetitiveness might prove fatal: death by a thousand adjectives?). [1]

The point is that the way I write is dilatory, circumlatory, roundabout, call it what you will (or don’t bother; because I have already used three adjectives when one would suffice.)

You say either / or? I say both and!

You say, will it be the duck, madam, or will it be the rabbit? I say, ooh, YES PLEASE!

I aspire to be spare, epigrammatic, even terse. I am co-teaching a lecture course this quarter, and my co-teacher is admirably economic with his language. I, on the other hand, start a sentence and various subordinate clauses multiply therein until the sentence becomes so unwieldy that I simply can’t remember how or where or why I began it. Also, it makes it difficult to breathe.

This morning I discovered conclusive proof that, like Robinson Crusoe, I have always been filled with rambling thoughts. Recently I had the occasion to write a short essay in which I reflected upon my undergraduate education. I wrote the essay based on my memories of being at Cambridge in the early 90s. But then I remembered that I actually have all of my undergraduate essays in a file cabinet in my office. So today I started looking at them in order to verify if my memories about the way I was taught literature were in fact accurate. I ended up being distracted and thoroughly amused by the exasperation repeatedly expressed by my professors in their marginal comments on my essays.

Take my Shakespeare supervisor. At the time I thought he was mean, but now I realize that the poor guy just wanted me to come to the bloody point.

For example:

“ … very densely put … you should make a tapestry sampler out of that last sentence (callow jest).”

“I nag at points, and sometimes feel you’re saying the same viable thing in various ways …”

Or here’s a gem from one of my prac crit instructors. This one, I admit, I’m perversely proud of, although it was not intended as a compliment:

There are some interesting points in your essay. However it is more of a treatise on aesthetics than a piece of practical criticism … Try not to be distracted by the philosophy …

At this point in this dispatch, I’ve probably already reflected too much. So, I’ll just say one more thing before I become fatally repetitive and distracted by philosophy; did I ever tell you about the time I said


[1] I like the idea of a superhero called Expansivgirl; not to be confused with Elastigirl, Expansivgirl’s superpower is not flexibility but rather expandability, in the telescopic sense described in Alice (“now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!”) and also, copiousness, which is to say, the ability to dilate on a single theme to an extent that beggars belief.


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