Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What it means: the purpose

I was on the phone with my friend Cydney a couple of weeks ago, and I said I needed to make a new MySpace page to replace the musician's page I had with Don. But I said I couldn't think of a cool name for it. Her partner, Brett, who was listening to her side of our conversation, suggested "reticulator." I liked the sound of the word, but realized I didn't really know what it meant. Something to do with a snake's spine? A bonobo's fur? Or maybe the veins in an oak leaf? Yep, that last one turned out to be pretty close, and it was just the right word for me. (Brett said he just pulled it out of...thin air, and since he doesn't know me that well, I believe him, but it was, nevertheless, the perfect word.)

Why is it perfect? Two reasons. The first is that I'm all about patterns and connections and networks. It's how I think. If there's a pattern to be found, I'll see it. If not, I'll go crazy until I find it. Everything is connected. I'll be writing more about that.

And I love connecting people too: connecting them to each other or to things they need or to information they need or to doing what they need to be doing. I'm like Alice Piaszecki on The L Word, only I don't stop at lesbians who sleep with each other. I connect everything.

The second reason is that one of my great loves, writing, is all about making connections. "Entering the conversation" we call it in our English 101 classes. And for some reason, it's a hard concept for my students to grasp. Yet, how often do we write in a void? Not often! We almost always write in response to something else that happened or something someone said or did.

Which means there's this invisible web connecting everything we write to everything else that's been written...oh! Here I get such delicious existential angst! Imagine. My writing is connected to Plato's (wouldn't he hate that!) and to Susan B. Anthony's and, yes, even to Nietzsche's. And to Margaret Atwood's and Barbara Kingsolver's and even, dear reader, to yours. It's heady company I keep.

Of course, we recognize these connections when they're personal. The Internet has made our writing connections so much more obvious. I've been friends on an email list for years (before yahoogroups) with women all over the country. We started out homeschooling and we've maintained that connection--mostly through writing--all these years as our children have grown and our families changed through divorce, death, war, and birth, and even through the death of one of our own.

And then there are social networking sites--which is where this whole thing got started. MySpace--when my son found out I had a MySpace, he said, "What are you, Mom? Twelve?" And Facebook. I only opened the Facebook account because Cyd and I were looking for a way for students to post essays for a week-long class we were teaching. It didn't work out for that, but soon students from my next class had found it (and a year and a half later are still on it) and then those women from the email list and colleagues from the Academy (where I teach and go to school) and friends from church and even my baby sister...and so it goes. Unintentional reticulation.

What is intentional though is this blog. It's a place where I can share ideas for writing that is intentionally reticulated, networked, responsive to something someone said or did. And I'll share my own writing here too. Finally, I hope hope hope you'll post some of your own ideas and writing, especially if you find the prompts motivating.

That's the purpose. Stay tuned for the first prompt. (Clue: it will be delicious.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What it means: the dictionary definition

Reticulate: (ri-tik-yuh-lit, leyt) adjective, verb, -lated, -lating.

1. netted; covered with a network.

2. netlike.

3. Botany: having the veins or nerves disposed like the threads of a net.

4. to form into a network.

5. to cover or mark with a network.

Writer: (rahy-ter) noun

1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.

2. a clerk, scribe, or the like

3. a person who commits his or thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing.

4. (in a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.): The writer wishes to state…

5. a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script

6. Stock Exchange: someone who sells options.

7. Scot: a lawyer or solicitor.