Blogging and Jane Austen
In August of 2009 I created a blog, Autumn’s Garden. ( http://autumngarden-bwsmith.blogspot.com/2009/08/we-moved-uprooting-ourselves-from-free.html) I began it, perhaps, because I doubted my capacity to write the great American novel, I have intimated I was writing since I was a senior in high school. A friend who looked at my blog said, “You are writing the thesis of your life.”
A thesis may be an academic paper wherein the student seeking an advanced degree defends his or her research to satisfy an examining board of professors. It is also an organizing principle in all good writing – the skilled author has a point he or she wants their audience to get.
Therein lies the rub. Literature paints pictures and portraits with words so we understand a bit more about life and those who live it. Paint on paper or canvas doesn’t always do what the painter expects – words on paper sometimes express ideas that weren’t exactly the same as the ideas in my head.
How can blogging help me write that novel?
My thesis has been that God is, though I struggle with doubt and unbelief; I am, and I [can] believe and do ______. In almost two years, I have written about several propositions, and offer them for many a kind reader’s consideration. Whether I have proved them or maintained them against objections is another matter. The propositions have centered on the wonder of simple pleasures, amidst life’s unexpected and unsettling reproofs, my faith struggles, and my character defects – especially as the sands of the hourglass are piling higher.
As I have written, I realize how hard it is to write what is true, letting go of self-pity, excuses, exaggeration, misrepresentation, or even character assassination.
Self-absorption doesn’t make for appealing reading however.
Jane Austen — to whom I am not likening myself, exactly — has engaged her readers in the simple pleasures and trials of women and men since the early 19th century. (http://www.pds-thirdfloor.com/austen.html) Her “thesis” throughout her gentle writing is nothing is more fascinating than ordinary women and men seeking to make a life for themselves in times that are uncertain for the financially challenged. She says very little about herself even as she created memorable heroines who show commonsense, common decency and good humor; other characters in her novels have little commonsense, scruples or humor.
Can I tell stories about people, places and times as graciously?
Blogging shows me that writing well depends on being truthful, kind, and generous. It has forced me to think about simple stuff – true stuff. William Makepeace Thackeray wrote: “There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.” How much more a keyboard?