The students in my writing class have spent the bulk of the semester writing personal narratives about a single day in their lives. They're currently on the fourth draft and they have officially reached the point at which they are 1) sick to death of that day, and 2) resentful at my insistence that each draft be comprised of entirely new writing.
"But I like my last draft," they say. "How much more can I say about that day? I've already said what happened."
I respond by talking to them about spotlights. "Let's say," I begin, "that I am writing an essay about this classroom. Look around. There's a lot here. There's a lot to write about. But I only have four pages to work with. So I'm going to turn off the lights and shine a spotlight on just one area of the room, and I'll write four pages about just that area."
I turn to a young man seated in front of me. "Let's say that when I shine my spotlight, the only person I can see is Jim. In that case, my essay is going to be about Jim's experience of the class, or my experience of Jim in the class. I'm going to write in depth and in detail about Jim, and to my reader, Jim will be the most important part of this class.
In my next draft, though, I'm going to shine the spotlight on that spot on the wall where the clock used to hang, but no longer does. Now my four pages are going to focus on how things fall into disrepair while we're not paying attention, or about how the presence of a clock affects the sense of timing in a classroom, or about how the absence of something can be even more powerful that the presence of something. And this time, my reader will think that the missing clock is the most important part of this class."
At this point in the lecture, the students sigh heavily and resign themselves to the fact that they are just not going to win this one.
But why am I telling you all this?
Here's why: Blogging is a lot like those hypothetical essays about my classroom. That clockless spot on the wall was there when I was writing about Jim. Jim was there when I was writing about the clockless spot. But they weren't in the spotlight, and so to the reader, they didn't exist.
So I want to say this: I've been shining spotlights in recent posts. My last post about entrainment captured two lovely snapshots - two real, true, genuine, lovely snapshots of my life. The post yielded a lot of "wow." And I can see why: the snapshots were wow. But outside the frame of the snapshots, there in the shadow not illuminated by the spotlight, there was much less wow. Or there was a whole different kind of wow.
So why am I still telling you this?
Sometimes when my writing focuses on one kind of wow to the exclusion of the other, I start to feel disingenuous. I start to feel like I'm lying by omission, like I'm painting a picture of life with Bud - life with autism - just plain life - that is designed to make readers believe one thing, when another thing is equally true. And I start to worry that people will read my writing and think "How can it be so easy for her when it is so blasted difficult for me?"
So, I'm writing this vague and blurry post to let you know that if I shifted the spotlight on recent days and weeks, you'd walk away with a different perspective. But I won't shift the spotlight. And I'll continue to focus on just one kind of wow.
Because, sometimes, that's just the best I can do.