The Blog as Collage

Dinty Moore posted this quote from John Edgar Wideman: “All non-fiction moves in the direction of collage.”

That made me think of the collage essay assignment I saw once from John Walter. It also made me think of Jeff Rice saying that he likes to assign longer essays and then break them down into components that students work on piece by piece–a collage of sorts.

Thinking of John and Jeff and Dinty and John Edgar made me think two things: (1) I’ve been meaning to write a collage, but I can’t seem to get around to it; (2) Hey, maybe I’ve been writing collages all along. Maybe that’s what a blog is.

This set me to thinking that I might like to make a concerted effort toward collage writing in the form of an article series. My first thought was to assign myself a topic that I would explore for at least one full week, writing a new entry on it each day until I have a true collage that wanders around and about an issue or a theme from multiple angles. I thought maybe I’ll do that this week since I’ve just written two articles in a row on gay rights, and I plan to write more.

At that point I remembered I have a job other than blogging. I may have to save that kind of assignment for another week or another life. There’s nothing to say it can’t take six months to complete an article sequence or collage, though. In fact, there’s nothing to say it ever has to be truly complete. But maybe I do need to be more aware of how I organize my categories and such so that people do see topic collages when they click on a particular label. Maybe not. Maybe I can find another way entirely of thinking about that.

Which leads me to the idea that if blog writing is essentially collage writing, it is also essentially experimental writing. It is a place to explore.

That takes me back to Jeff’s idea that length requirements for student writing are about giving the students enough room to explore their ideas. This probably means something about how I can use blog assignments more effectively in the classroom. I’m going to mull that over and get back to you on it.

For now, if you see me harping on a theme over here, don’t be too worried about my level of obsession. I may just be working through an assignment I’ve given myself. I may just be working up a collage.

Jeff mentioned 2000 word essays for college composition students. I wrote more than that in my first two entries and felt I had only just begun to talk about my topic. My students would see a 2000 word minimum as harsh. That’s because students come to us as inexperienced writers. They wouldn’t be in the class if they weren’t.

I have 20 years of writing fairly steadily behind me. I’m going to set my starting point for writing my way through a topic I really want to explore at 10,000 words. Really, if I want to be scholarly about it, I should go a good bit higher. I’m not talking about scholarship, though. I’m talking about a sequence of blog sketches.

I’ve read that 10,000 steps per day is the minimum a person should take for general health. That number shoots up to about 18,000 steps per day for additional goals like weight loss and competitive levels of fitness.

Those numbers are arbitrary with more anecdotal evidence behind them than scientific evidence, but I think I will steal them anyway for my concept of what I might be able to do with the blog as collage and what I think it means for the writer to be an explorer of ideas.

10,000 words per topic (regardless of the number of entries it takes to get there) will be my starting point for general writerly health and maintenance. 18,000 words per topic will be my benchmark for the entry point into more competitive writerly fitness levels.

I may or may not let you know how that turns out. I may or may not follow through on even counting my words. It just sounds good to think about it right now, and that’s what my blog is here for.

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