"And writing's the key."
We often hear people cite certain authors or texts as being kind of their inspiration for how they write or why they write. Do you have any authors or texts that kind of inspired you?
Well, Tony Hillerman is one, and the reason is that he respects culture he respects the culture he’s writing about. And in fact he was recognized by, I believe, the Navajo for his sensitivity to that because these are murder mysteries, and they’re written in the four corners region. So, you have these two, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, these detectives and but also because you learn something from what he’s writing.
I remember one book in particular he’s talking about, I can’t remember if its Leaphorn or Chee is interviewing a grandmother who’s related to someone who may be involved in a crime and so forth and so on, and he talks about the rhythm of the conversation—that there is a rhythm. And that sometimes if you wait just a little bit longer, then the person will say the most important thing next.
And so that’s something that’s important in the way we interact with people, certainly as an administrator or a teacher or a friend, you know. If you’re a good listener and if you wait, sometimes the next thing will be the most important thing.
Wallace Stegner—Angle of Repose was a very challenging book for me, very affecting because it’s about life. Angle of Repose, if you pile up sand or coal or anything like that, the pile makes a certain angle with the ground. That’s the angle of repose, and so the sense I got out of the book is as life goes on we settle into an angle of repose ourselves through our life experiences, and that’s a valuable lesson for me too because we all go through things in our lives. And they affect us in different ways, and we have to know how to deal with, if you will, the gravity of life, but we can struggle against it, but we’re not like sand where its poured and that’s it, so I thought that interesting.
T.S. Elliot, some of his poetry, you know, been very influential for me, and then just in terms of something exciting to read I think Alexander Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo. He can spin a great yarn, sort to speak.
Those all, those have been influential to me. One author who I heard speak once that said something very important, in my opinion, was Robert Olen Butler and who won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction several years ago. And he said that every time he writes he has to, in so many words, get past his demons—that it’s always in his process.
Any time you write, of course it depends on the purpose of your writing, and sometimes it’s very personal because you’re dealing with something, that’s different than writing a memo or email obviously. But when you’re writing something that’s really deeply connected to who you are, I think you do have to go through that, and you have to recognize that, and you do to have deal with it. And I think sometimes what happens when we hit that wall, sometimes we can’t push through it, and sometimes that’s why we can’t write because there’s an unanticipated block, but if we know it’s coming, sometimes we can work our way through it.
In a way, in the Writing Center I think that plays out when people come in with a personal statement. Why do I want to go to graduate school?
I mean you really get, but people are also very receptive to talking about that. I mean, those are some of the most productive conversations we have in here because the writer cares deeply.
About the outcome, but also they’ve been asked to write about themselves and externalize things they’ve been thinking.
Right and I think writing in general in terms of Integrative Learning, there is a self-examination that occurs either voluntarily or involuntarily. And that’s another value of I think writing and its connection, very strong connection with Integrative Learning is, well what is it, the unexamined life is not worth living.
So, one of the main purposes of college I think is that self-examination and understanding what are our values, how did we come to have these values, what are our presuppositions, challenging our own presuppositions about the way things are and what’s the way they should be. And how do I take philosophy and history and sociology and all the courses that I am taking, how do I pull that together to formulate my approach to the world, how do I frame my world view?
And writing’s the key.