99. 💬 that is to say/in other words 💬
thinking about clarification and refinement
Hello, and happy Monday. (Happy August! Whoa!)
I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I mostly stayed inside and read. It was quite the change of pace for me, as a lot of the time I am rushing around trying to get everything done that I haven’t during the week. This weekend, though, I decided to say to myself, “It can wait.” And I just started to read and write voraciously. All of the writing was for me, just me. It felt good to read things I found inspiring, to do some visioning work, to dream things big and small.
In other news, I’ve also been listening to “The Blue Suit,” from the amazing Shin Yu Pai and KUOW. The podcast is a meditation on the objects that make up Asian America today—the memories and connections they hold to spaces and feelings. Each guest makes meaning of these common objects in relation to their own unique subject-position. It’s fantastically produced and I’ve been zipping through the episodes!
✏️ Still processing.
When I was in grad school, one of my dissertation chairs held a weekly writing group that all of her students participated in. Each week, we would get together to discuss pieces of our work that other folks had commented on earlier. It was a great practice—one that pushed me to write consistently, one that also made me less precious about the words I put on the page when I would draft, one that helped me learn the power of revision. (For any and all folks who have students writing theses or dissertations, I highly recommend that you enact a similar writing group for them! You can also participate in it!)
Without fail, whenever I would submit a piece of writing to the group, I would always have someone comment on my use of the phrases, “that is to say,” or “in other words.” It became a funny thing—I would joke that that they were my favorite ways to start sentences!! That is to say! In other words! So good!!! Here’s an actual example from my actual dissertation (this one happened to make the cut!!):
Although it [the film The House of Sand and Fog] is written and directed by non-Iranians, the film succeeds because of the performances that connect it to the diaspora and homeland through the engaged connection with the diasporic community in Los Angeles. That is to say, this film allows for a consideration of Iranian self-produced performance, even within the bounds of non-Iranian produced scripts.
Although it may seem obvious, it took a lot of reflection for me to realize that a lot of the work I was trying to do here was that of clarification. My drafts were riddled with these phrases as I tried to clarify for myself what exactly it was that I was trying to communicate.
While I used to see this as a frustratic tic, I realized much later that I should embrace this constant desire for refining in my early drafts of writing. I think often about artist sketchbooks (which I’ve written about before), and how they sometimes contain studies of objects or people. The same thing drawn over and over again, a little differently. I see this start to my sentences, and I know that it is my attempt to get a little closer to clarity and accuracy of my words. Or, it’s an attempt to play with language, change things a little and see what emerges. “What happens if I put it like this?” “What emerges if I emphasize this instead?”
In my early, early drafting stages, I have taken to rewriting my thoughts on a single concept or idea as many times as I can. This is especially true when I have finished free writing and am moving onto the early work of chiseling away at a difficult or complicated idea that I’m trying to communicate as clearly and simply as possible. I write, “By x, I mean…” and go from there. When I think I am finished with my thought—usually about a paragraph or two—I go to a new line and begin again. “By x, I mean…” “By x, I mean…” On and on until I am thinking in circles. Then, it’s only a matter of getting out of those little circles and drawing another shape, which comes with much greater ease than if I were to draw that shape from nothing.
🌀 Still consuming.
Submit your stories of chronic pain &/or illness to my amazing friend Zsofi VN’s zine “High Functioning!” (info above)
My other amazing friend Erin A. wrote an amazing article on “Reading and Writing Japanese American Incarceration”
“I totally support the politics of coming out, but at the same time, I'm critical of the assumption that one's identity has to be the major driving force that determines one's politics. And I should say that I was supportive of the Gay Liberation movement long before I identified as a member of the LGBTQ community. This is a logic that is pretty much the same that I've attempted to use with respect to other movements of liberation. I don't have to be a member of the Latinx community to be a passionate supporter of anti-Latinx racism, to place the defense of immigrants, for example, at the center of my own political awareness.” Angela Davis on Abolition, Capitalism, and the Politics of Coming Out
“Yet women should have the right to control their reproduction, not only because of the potential emotional or financial hardship but because it is a precondition to their full and free participation in our society. If women cannot dictate this most basic aspect of their being, then the Supreme Court has effectively consigned them to a distinctly secondary tier of citizenship.” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on the right to abortion
📖 Book club corner.
Next month’s tiny driver book club will be facilitated by friend & book club member Devin P! Here’s her bio:
Devin Kate Pope is a writer based in Tempe, AZ. She has a degree in journalism from Arizona State University and runs a copywriting studio called Kindred Word. Her writing has appeared in Versification, Rejection Letters, and Compound Butter. Her poem, WEST OF SELFISH, was selected for the City of Phoenix’s 7th Avenue Streetscape Project in 2018. She is at work on a novel that was a semi-finalist for the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. You can find her online at devinkatepope.com.
Vote for your book club pick below, and the meeting details follow!
Here’s the event info:
Date & Time: Tuesday, August 30 @ 5PM PST/8PM EST
Registration Link to come!
Suggested Donation (for those able to donate): $3-10 through Paypal or Venmo (@idyalz) (A note that 100% of donations will go to Devin!)
If you are interested in facilitating a book club and have been to more than two book club meetings, feel free to reach out to me!
You can learn more about the tiny driver book club here!
🐶 A pup-date.
Mr. Higgins loves being a sleepy beepy boy:
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!