The Wings of Writing – on reading Samuel Johnson’s essay on writing

Suppose a brownie or a leprechaun I happen to rescue from a Gargamel lookalike wizard insists what my three wishes are as a quid pro quo (depending upon how friendly the fairy is). In that case, I will say forthwith one of them is the Marvel of Writing, which I have lost somewhere in the course of life. I can turn myself into a great writer with the magical pyramid of power from a hodge-podge reality of indigested letters of reality as black as Persian Night.

Johnson’s essay on the role of the scholar evolves from Francis Bacon’s adage: “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” It rings a bell with the Nietzschean idea of Superhuman, superseding any mortals known for their erudition perennially enshrined in the history of human civilizations. A truly knowledgeable person I principally associate with a great writer can digest what he reads, explain it to others in facile terms, and substantialize it in writing, a mental Osmotic process that nourishes the mind and invigorates the body.

Although I agree with Bacon as Johnson did, I am more with their ancient Greek teacher Socrates. Socrates warned his pupils about regurgitating what they heard from his lectures without putting it in their own words. That was one reason why the great philosopher disapproved of writing practice that had just emerged in his time. Copying letters of others without understanding them on his own would stun the cognitive powers rather than promote a broader and deeper range of cognition. Reading was not as popular in Socrates’ time as in ours because it was at the beginning of the new intellectual dawn of Greek Civilization. So, Socrates was a thinker, neither a reader of texts, nor a writer of tablets. Does this make him less of his students Plato and Aristotle?

Does the amount of reading necessitate that of writing? Wouldn’t too many words go undigested inside and clog the pipes of thoughts when writing? For example, an ambitious amateur writer wants to write as if she were possessed by the spirit of Patience Worth, who transformed an ordinary homemaker into a brilliant writer. She adheres to a writer’s gospel of “Read a lot. Write a lot,” but it is easy to be said than to be done. The more she reads, the worse she writes. She wants to reason the perplexing reason with frustration and disappointment. She feels lost in the middle of midtown Manhattan where there are many streets and avenues but nowhere is her niche. Yet once she gets out of town, the state, the coast, her mind becomes clear, imbued with a fresh breath of inspiration that moves her hands on the keyboards automatically. Contrary to Johnson’s opinion that grandstands with all other established writers and academics, the amateur writer feels liberated from a siege of letters that intimidated her army of thoughts equipped in her design of armors and shields with her coat of arms sovereign and beautiful. Her reasoning power was buried under a chaos of indigested learning.

Although Johnson’s magnanimous advice of the equilibrium of reading, writing, and speaking on a writer’s continuum is respectful and worth reading, its reality is subject to the individual aptitudes of learning, ways of reasoning, and natural dispositions. One may write better because of reading more, while the other has the opposite consequence. A hermit – let us say more realistically, an introvert – is not always an incompetent, anti-social, sullen loner whose airy petulance barricades against others whose intelligence may seem intimidating to be dealt with. I think to write more is far better critical than to read more because writing is a sovereign act of expressing an individual mind and spirit, free from the comparison of the florid words of others with the writer’s own that would dispirit the vivacity of the creative spirit. To conclude, I thank Thomas Mann for his affirmative saying:” Solitude produces originality, bold and astonishing beauty, poetry.” Truth is truth to the end of reckoning. Then it is yet another truth of others, not necessarily yours.

Bluebird Interview

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She was born when Saturn and Uranus were housed in the Aquarius. That says pretty much about her. The Aquarian are known for their independent spirits, compassionate and caring nature, and unquenchable wants of knowledge, all enveloped in mysterious estrangement even among the crowds. Yet, Stephanie, the writer and the editor of her two-year old Web log, “The Stylus,” (formally known as “Offbeat) is generally quite approachable and genial although she is never too loquacious at a first meeting. In fact, you might find her quite interesting to talk to, especially when you strike up a conversation with her about books written by classical writers or about history, dogs, or cultures. And if any of these appertains to one of her writings published on her digital log, “The Stylus,” you will see her soul being elevated to the ether with her eyes sparkling like stars on the Persian night sky. On Monday morning at a cozy cafe in Avonlea, Bluebird had the pleasure sitting down  with a cup of warm hazelnut coffee to talk with her about her blog, from the inception, the purpose, and the future thereof.

BD: Hi, Stephanie. As Oscar Wilde has said that a woman who would reveal her age would tell anything about her, I won’t ask you how old you are because I suspect that you will not anyhow.

Stephanie: I appreciate your judiciousness. (Smile) And yes, you are right in saying that I won’t tell you my age. (Smile) But I am neither teen-aged nor maturely aged, single, like one of those 10 vestals in the ancient Roman Empire. (Smile)

BD: Okay, then let’s start talk about your Web log. What was the idea behind the creation of this log of yours? Did it occur to you all of sudden that you wanted to have yours like everyone else?

Stephanie: Well, I first started thinking about having my writing log about 2 years ago. I had always wanted to write things about what I liked and to convey it in written letters because I think writing revels one’s soul in his/her genuine self without worrying about the physical appearance and how to present the self externally in public. In that regard, writing is non-discriminating of all social and biological differences. And I always thought that in people’s writings I could see the intelligence and nature of the writers because people would tell about their innermost feelings by means of writing rather than by speaking, which I think, sometimes seems a bit pompous and artful.

BD: So, is this why you came to create your blog to write about what you think and feel that cannot be shared by speaking in public?

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Stephanie: Partly so. And partly it’s because writing seems easier to communicate than speaking, which requires of me instantaneous faculty with dialogue that necessitates breaking from shyness. You see, English is not my mother tongue. Being a native Korean, the language differences between the two languages are as wide and deep as the Pacific Ocean: The English belongs to the Indo-European lingual family, while the Korean to the Ural-Altai to which the Japanese, the Turkish, the Finnish, and the Hungarian also belong. The syntax and the grammar are of course very different. So, it will be much different from, say, someone from any Western European country speaking and writing English because Western European languages belong to the same family as the English. Nevertheless, I want to break from such syntactical, grammatical, and literary inhibitions to craft the art of writing, just as Jack Kerouac felt the same about it.

BD: That’s a sublime motivation to create your blog. Then how about the name of your blog? It has recently gone through some changes…

Stephanie: Yes, indeed. But for the good reasons. First, it was started as “Offbeat” because one of the teachers at the language school I currently work at told me that my blog seemed to carry this offbeat vibes, a sort of New York feel, the independence, the avant-garde spirit that knew no boundary of subject matters of writing. So I thought it was a cool name for my blog and kept it until the last week. But suddenly I came to think that it needed name changing just for a change of scenery; you know the kind of moment when you want to reinvent your image with a new haircut.

BD: Okay, Stephanie. By the way, what are your readers like? Do you have many followers?

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Stephanie: To be honest with you, I am more concerned about the qualitative likes I get for what I write from fellow bloggers who also love writing and publish qualitative posts by which I mean the writings, such as musings, creative stories, poems, and/or book reviews. The reason I say this is that recently there has been someone who creates several unsolicited blogs that only contain commercial stuff, copied works of others, or nothing just to get to my blog. And I tell you that I only appreciate the likes from those qualitative bloggers. And I also tell you that I don’t appreciate those of illegitimate ones’ likes. How do I know they are illegitimate? Well, can you like my writing as soon as I publish? That means that person does not bother to read my writing, which I take it as an offense.

BD: Who is that one plaguing your blog with empty likes? Have you done something about it?

Stephanie: First, that one appeared in my spam comment section. He said he liked my blog and asked for some advice of writing. I think I was too naive to even reply to him, thinking that he was going to have his meaningful blog filled with writings, but no… I should have never done that…. This is my character flaw; that I bring trouble and pain on myself through pity and compassion… In that respect, I sympathize with Katherine Cookson, who said the same thing in her memoir Before I go, about which I have also written.

BD: You must be really frustrated with that person… Sorry to hear that.

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Stephanie: I even contacted an engineer at wordpress. about this issue in effort of stopping him from visiting my blog, but was told that because it’s in a public domain, there’s no way I could do that… And you know it’s really disheartening to see it happening in my blog because it is a sheer form of sabotage to my blog because my blog is not an object of popularity… Although my current followers are 52, what I care about is my works being duly appreciated by fellow writers, amateur or professional. Nevertheless, I don’t want to canvass for liking my writings. It’s just not me. But if you like any of my writings in terms of the contents regardless of any grammatical errors, that makes me feel fulfilled. And any comment is always welcome.

Don’t be shy to comment on any of my posts because I am a human being, too! (Smile)

BD: Stephanie, I understand how you care about your blog and your love of writing in this interview. Any word to your readers?

Stephanie: I just want my readers to know that I write because I like to portray what I feel about things in my heart in poetry and what I think about books I read in my mind in belief that taste and reason is universal in all human creatures regarding principles of judgment and of sentiment common to all mankind, as Edmund Burke averred in his essay On Taste. So Many Thanks to You, Dear Readers with My Whole Heart.

BD: Thank you, Stephanie. I hope your writings will have a wide range of loyal noble readership.

Stephanie: Thanks! Have a lovely day!

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Who am I?

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Dear Readers:

Hi there. Thank you for stopping by my blog. It’s always a pleasure communicating with people through writing, which I believe is the most authentic vehicle of expression of a self. My love of reading and writing inspires me to publish my thinkings in this blog. So Welcome All with my Whole Heart.

My name is Stephanie Joori Suh, living in a suburban New Jersey town in the vicinity of the New York City. I work in the City for livelihood and write at home (or sometimes on the Second Floor in a Dunkin’ Donuts’ shop nearby my workplace) for selfhood. The great psychologist and thinker Viktor E. Frankl, who is also the founder of Logotherapy, has urged us that we strive for realizing our values that are: Creative Value, Experiential Values, and Attitudinal Values in order to arrive at meanings of our lives. How true it is! I believe those who write are united spiritually in fulfilling such noble deeds. We are kindred spirits.

I may not write perfect English prose due to English being my second language. I may not sound ordinary in the sense that my writing speaks with certain streaks of foreignness. Nevertheless, it is my quest for actualizing what I possess inside by means of literary expression. And I have to purge it out, unravel the mystery in me that is dying for the discovery of the truth in me.

Hence this little blog has come into being; it is the birth of my brain child, or rather the manifested ego qua meaningfulness as in terms of Logotherapy. So many thanks again for your readership, which is also meaningful to me.

All the Best,

Stephanie S.