Sunday, March 19, 2017

Project and Politics/Social Justice Update: Interesting Edits, Breakthroughs, & Politics/Social Justice Snark

Well last weekend got busy with a bunch of social stuff. Fitting in chores and regular priority stuff became difficult. I had to stretch out those things over the nights of the last week. Unfortunately the weekly update came in last on the list of things to do. It means I get to stuff two weeks of writing/research and political/social justice updates into one blog entry. Not a really a big deal.

One night I worked on editing down a part of my novel to make eligible for submission to Boston Review Call for Submissions: Global Dystopias. About three quarters of the way in and two hours of life used up, I aborted the project because it felt like gutting the story.

With so much focus on reducing the word count, I didn’t know if it helped or hurt. With that much involved and about 2,000 more words to get rid of, I didn’t feel comfortable going further with the project.

It didn’t help that I would end up paying a submission fee. Don’t get me wrong, the journal has legitimacy. Just some of the names of contributors give the journal legitimacy (more academic essayists, politicians, and public personalities than fiction writers, mind you). The combination to pay for submission and feeling like I had chipped away at the soul of the story just didn’t feel right, though.

Nonetheless, a couple good things came out of the endeavor. I re-read parts that got me excited about the story again and reminded me that I could write well, if I could just make more time to do so.

Some of the word cutting improved things a little, too. I saved both the original text and the skimmed down version. In a week or so, I should have a round of consistency/update edits done for names and details added in non-linearly. I might as well look compare the original text and the word cut edited text then incorporate the edits where appropriate and adds to the soul.

The current essay had a breakthrough, too. For the last 8-10 years, I had tried finding the motivation or at least a theoretical rationale for steps taken by a historical figure to accomplish their goal. It took an interesting path.

It started with me realizing that I couldn’t find good biographical facts or explanations for why this historical figure believed the things that he believed. This frustration has even led to frustration with myself over the years for not journaling or cataloguing my thoughts, events, and other biographical data in case people in the future, after I pass away, ever want to understand my actions. Frankly, having such a journal or catalog could help me in the future when I have a hard time remembering. I know reading my journals today help me a bit in understanding myself.

Looking up biography at Wikipedia, I ran into an interesting line in the section about modern biography that stated that the fields of psychology and sociology made their ascendance in the early 20th century, which affected the genre quite a bit. The historical figure lived in the first half of the 19th century, so I came to realize that he had a completely different idea of how people developed morals, appropriate social behavior, and sense of responsibility.

His view in these topics plays a big part since he has the biggest part in crafting the utopian community in question, decides when to call it quits, and down the road reveals his frustration with the masses of people. His frustrations come off as surprising since he had so much optimism when it came to people and also expressed some sense of responsibility to helping people grow and find a place in society. At the same time, in his community, in all the books I’ve read, no where have I found anything about him elaborating any theory on how to make it work or even any record of him doing anything direct to make it happen in his community.

The man had interesting ideas about the development of humans. He teeter tottered between the need to assist people to learn and become more moral and having a belief that people had an internal moral compass that would lead everyone who thought about a problem to the same exact conclusion (at times, some type of sense that connected their conscience to God). It felt like a contradiction. On the one hand, people needed help to reach a state of right conscience that they wanted help to do, but when it came time to craft a utopian community, he expected all the adults in it to reach the same final conclusions about their responsibilities and place in it, no matter their biography.

This contradiction sent me into a researching spiral. I searched deeper into essays he had written, trying to parse his words to make sense of his contradictory arguments. An essay of his that sparked a major controversy between him and a mentor and a couple religious ministry cohort generations led me to an introduction to Samuel Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection written by James Marsh.

James Marsh’s introduction led me down a Wikipedia/WWW spiral to try shining some light onto the epistemology of the American Transcendentalists, European/British Romantics, and Samuel Coleridge. It led me to some interesting Wikipedia entries, like: Romantic Epistemology, Coleridge’s Theory of Life, and Romanticism and Bacon. All very interesting, but it only got me halfway to where I needed to go.

The WWW spiral led me to ”Coleridge’s American Reputation, 1800-1853”. This article helped make sense of the questions on epistemology that I had. In addition, though, it cited, multiple times, an introduction to a translation of philosophical works written by a Frenchmen. I read that introduction and perfect! I found the rationale for my historical figure’s actions and reactions.

At the same time, I feel a little infuriated. I had touched upon this book of translation years ago, but I didn’t go so far into the “Introductory Notes” as I should have. Instead, I had read the “Editor’s Preface”, which didn’t get into any of theory and rationale. The historical figure had edited the translation, so I figure he would have wrote the importance of this theory and rationale in that preface. I thought the original philosopher had written the “Introductory Notes”. But no, that wasn’t the case, The historical figure/editor had written the “Introductory Notes” where we find the real important information.

It took me a year’s long roundabout journey to reach this point with the help of a more modern essay and its footnotes. Before this point, I hadn’t understood the unclear conventions of translations and compilations until this point. I had a similar experience reading essays by this historical figure and others in a magazine they published because they didn’t have bylines, signed off with initials, or even used aliases when publishing. How very frustrating!

Years ago, a teacher friend of mine had reassured me that when I completed this whole project, I would have gained useful experience and skills that I could use later. I guess we can find some truth in that reassurance.

Honestly, though, I’d like to know if there’s any reference material that points out conventions used in magazines, journals, and books in the past that I could have read awhile ago that could have cut down on this journey. I know in today’s world, we have plenty of style guides for different types of publications. Knowing if they exist for publications in the far past would be very helpful.

For now, though, yay! I made a breakthrough and plan to make some progress with it.

Otherwise, I did some more grinding with the fiction editing and outlining for the current essay.


And now onto my social media snark fest, this time with some Facebook screenshots.

(If you can't read the below Facebook snapshot, click on it or save then open as a file)

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