To Inform or Inspire?

Ever since the day last year when I was chided (gently) for my “fancy writing,” I’ve striven to sharpen, refine and carefully prune my overly verbose descriptive style (of course, I’m not always successful because, as you can plainly see, I adore adjectives, semicolons and parentheses). In doing so, I sometimes find myself skewered by the tutorial writer’s dilemma: do I write only to inform in the dry manner of a pedagogue or to inspire as would a more charismatic poet? Do I the channel the sober sensibilities of the academic or don the mantle of the raconteur? Am I best positioned as an educator or as a cheerleader? (The fact that I was once an aspiring fantasy fiction author should give you a clue, but the countervailing truth that I was more recently a professional technical and legal writer as well as a lapsed Mensan might complicate any such assumption.)

My love of language makes the fabulist’s role more agreeable, although it courts the risk of producing lofty narrative confections with nothing inside but hot air. The downside of the teacher’s path is one of sometimes delivering tedious, didactic “lead balloons” instead of compelling insights. In my tarot readings I stake out the middle ground through use of accepted storytelling tropes that impart nuanced meaning without being starkly literal, but that approach is less convincing when writing for content rather than primarily for effect. My intention to post something new every day pushes my nose right up against the self-imposed grindstone each morning, and I try not to repeat myself unless fresh insights emerge as a result of my ongoing  explorations, both theoretical and practical. (I’d like to say I’ve always succeeded but I know that’s not true.)

My preferred solution is to scribe a taut line most of the time with occasional flourishes of creative exuberance, a model that works well for the economical three-paragraph discourse. I seem to detect two demographics in my audience: those who are still learning and want as much thoughtful guidance as they can get, and those more experienced practitioners who don’t mind a little entertainment mixed in with the more edifying fodder. I try to shake things up here by cycling between more serious, scholarly essays and lighter fare like tarot spreads, my “Process and Methodology” series and the occasional mild rant that hopefully finds its target. Above all, I want to share what I think I’ve learned over the last 4+ decades of study and practice. Since I doubt I’ll ever write “the Book” that lurks within me, this blog will have to suffice.

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