Writing and the “Personal Brand”

I found some photos while cleaning my office the other day, photos from a l-o-n-g time ago. They were taken during a hike through Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains on the north side of Tucson, Arizona. The canyon contains some spectacular rock formations and a dessert ecosystem where water runs freely during the rains of winter/spring. And it was a fairly secluded place when I lived there. That’s an important detail.

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Sabino Canyon in the Sonoran Dessert

I’d show you some of my photos, but they’re not digital, they’re not appropriate for a PG website, and I’m not sure they’re meant for anyone’s eyes but my own.

The photos were taken by a boyfriend, and they were “artistic.” Skin and stone and water and light and shadow.

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No skin, but you get the idea

What could be more beautiful? And while they have meaning for me, I’m not sure they would have value for anyone else.

An aside: The top of Sabino Canyon did have the nickname “nipple peak.”

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I’m not a photographer, and I do not have the ability to step outside myself while viewing the person I once was in the photos that I’m NOT going to show you. In other words, I cannot judge them with any objectivity, so I’m going to stop talking about them now.

But I am a writer, and when I find old work from my youth stuffed in folders or boxes, my editor steps in. Does this piece strike a chord solely with me, or will others find value in it? Is it purely for the confessional, or can it be shaped to create some sort of universal experience?

Can I now step aside and write about an event as if it had happened to someone else? By removing my ego, can I go more deeply into the story or the character and find things I wouldn’t have been able to see had I not stripped my “self” from the work?

Is stripping the “self” from any work really possible? Is “self” stamped all over everything that I have ever written? Does a writer’s work bear a lasting imprint that can never be washed away? Do we want to wash the imprint away? Do the best pieces of writing contain that indelible imprint?

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Is the idea to strip the writing of self when writing while at the same time making sure the writing contains the self that becomes the lasting imprint? And does any of this happen consciously?

I guess I’m just one half of a pair of crows today, the question woman. The answer woman has gone missing. Maybe she flew south for the winter.

That’s it for today, folks. I used up all my energy writing not-so-pithy sayings to fill 600 fortune cookies for our school’s auction tomorrow. “Good fortune comes to those who support the library fund-a-need. Give generously.” Uninspired, and not really a fortune, but to the point, yes? If you’ve got any better suggestions for fortunes—or questions, or answers to questions, I’m all ears.

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I’m listening

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5 Comments

Filed under Howling at the moon

5 responses to “Writing and the “Personal Brand”

  1. When I come across some of my old writing, I am surprised to find how detached I am from the work. It’s almost as if I didn’t write it, so my inner editor doesn’t feel the need to come out to play.

    I can enjoy (or not enjoy) it, as if it was written by someone else. Because, in a way, I guess it had been.

    • Yes, that’s a good point. Richard Ford and Amy Tan said similar things on this topic at Squaw. They both feel like they’re looking back on the person they once were when they read their old work. But it was curious to hear that Ford was afraid to look at his 20-yr-old first few pages of Canada for fear it would diminish his new attempt at writing the new novel in someway. So although he’d kept the pages in a brown envelope in the freezer for 20 years, he started over from scratch. Couldn’t bear to look at them.

  2. You pose a thought-provoking question, Jill. My simple feeling is that you pour all of yourself into the creation of the piece and they try to back that self out enough to see the piece as clearly as you can while revising. But somewhere along the way, the self has to pop up again as you recapture what about the piece made you passionate initially. But it’s never that simple, because each piece is different and requires a different part of yourself in the first place. And, I really want to see those pictures your boyfriend took. 🙂

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