The Life Grammatic*

Something glaringly obvious about me has demanded I recognise it properly again – the process of writing is extraordinarily important to me when it comes to understanding who I am and what sort of relationship I have with my world. 

But Steve, you write a blog pretty much every day, you can’t have forgotten how important it is to you to do the writey thing. That’s you, that is, saying a thing to me. But I reply that mostly I write nonsense in my blog so that it is more of a brain dump than a reliable document pertaining to self-identity and social location.

Which is why I’ve so missed academia, a vocation and an outlet for my writing that forced me to produce rational and coherent words in great quantities. Now that I am tentatively sidling up to academic things again I can already feel the regimental sergeant major of scholarly discipline insisting I pull my grammatical shoulders back and make my thinking stand up straight. And I’m gladdened by this, so much so that I’ve begun a separate academic journal in which to privately explore ideas as I hope to work towards the shape and scope of any new thesis.

Twenty years ago, as a new undergraduate, excited by lectures and seminars but unsure I could thrive amongst people almost half my age and who had not spent years dumbing themselves down with rock and roll and drugs, I reluctantly embraced a class assignment to write a ‘thought diary’ as part of the first year module on critical theory. At first I imagined I’d write the bare minimum as I didn’t realise the value of the exercise. Within a few weeks, however, I found I was putting even more into that journal than I was when writing up my lecture notes. The informality of the diary allowed me to express my doubts and fears as well as reach for ridiculously speculative ‘conclusions’ without public embarrassment. It also helped me appreciate that when it comes to critical theory there is no right and wrong, there is only what you can construct a convincing argument for: it’s not rocket science, no one dies if you fancy chasing down some maverick ideas.

So I’ve begun a new thought diary, twenty years on from that first one, in hope of rediscovering the joy of self-discovery through academic work. I don’t belong anywhere else, after all, so I may as well immerse myself more completely inside words once more.

*He says, ungrammatically.


About S

“an extraordinary repository of cultural knowledge”
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