Thursday, October 01, 2009

I Write Like Jazz???

While I was doing some final edits on an article for Word in the World (Concordia) I had an insight into my writing. I realized that I write jazz. While that is kinda cool, it is not a good style academically. But at least now I know what I am doing so I can address it. Here is what I mean, let's say the next paragraph is a sample of a typical paragraph in one of my essays.

All the balloons in the world are blue. Fourteen years ago the shuttle Survivor ran into a strange space gas. It was quite upsetting for the pilots, all of whom found it hard to deal with the colour blue. The gas they ran into was blue and piercing the cloud brought it raining down on the planet. Most things were affected, even temporarily, blue became the new black. Now all that is left is the inflation effect, remnants of that strange space gas cause inflated objects to turn blue. The effect is still a puzzle to the scientific community. The blueness of balloons has led to many a sad birthday party, it is these parties that I will turn next.

There are a couple of things - I typed that quickly so it probably has many unintentional problems as well - I want to point out. Multiple ideas in one sentence, I'm working on that one. Connecting sentences at the end that are disconcerting leaps. But there is a strategy that I noticed. I call it the jazz paragraph.

Jazz introduces tension into music, then the listener follows longing for that tension to be resolved. Good jazz resolves this, but not always in the way we expect. This tension and resolution is what makes the music so interesting. (I could be completely off here in my understanding of jazz, so if I am just call it Frank's erroneous understanding of jazz and follow me to the next part.)

My paragraphs often begin right away with a clear claim. That I do well actually. So my strategy should be how I establish the validity of that claim - and there are several ways of doing that. What I tend to do is make my claim and then immediately jump several steps down the rabbit trail. Then I scramble back up to make my connection, but if you missed that this disconnect was the tension you probably are stuck trying to figure out what the first two sentences had to do with each other and completely miss my point. That is the problem with my jazz approach. I need to close the gap between sentence one and sentence two, easing myself (and hopefully my reader) into the rabbit hole.

It is actually encouraging to recognize this. One of the hardest things for me has been to become self-aware when I am writing. When you write you have a whole world of thought in your head and some of it makes its way to the page. If you leave out too much you can't be followed, or at least your arguments cannot be followed. That has been a comment I've gotten a lot from my director - that she can't follow the thinking between sentences. Now that I discovered the jazz aspect I realize why it makes sense to me (plus I'm an abstract thinker, not linear). She knows I know the material, as she once said I can always explain what I am trying to do, but it is not translating to the page.

I'll probably read this post later and laugh. I hope you find it amusing too.

No comments: