Writing as sense-making

28 04 2012

Guest blog by Ryan Namba.

I was reading an interview with Pico Iyer, one of my favorite writers, and a few lines jumped out at me regarding the evolving role of the writer. Iyer is a travel writer and novelist, but I believe his insights go beyond just travel journalism here. (All emphases mine.)

Back then:

… my job was to be an information-gathering machine, kind of an emissary, but certainly a representative to go and take in as many sights, sounds, facts, and sensations as possible, and just saturate the page with that almost like verbal television.

And now:

Now I feel like we all have much too much information and what the writer can offer is freedom from information, a way of stepping out of the rush and commotion and acceleration of the day, a way to try to put it in a much larger perspective and make sense of it ….

Writing can’t hope to compete with the Internet or TV or any of our latest inventions, so it has to stake its claim in those places of silence and nuance, the spaces between the words and intimacy that those other mechanisms can’t claim or colonize so powerfully.

From merely communicating facts to weaving together meaning; from saturating the page to cultivating perspective. To hear Iyer describe the writer’s task, it is less about objective retelling and more about subjective curation and explanation.

As a reader in these data-heavy, info-laden times, I wholeheartedly agree.

Read more from Ryan at ryannamba.com.

One more tidbit from Ryan:

“Green green green green green yel- brown.”

–Every banana I have ever purchased. Ever.
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2 responses

28 04 2012
lavagal

Ryan: you write like a guy who carries a backpack with only the essentials. I write like a woman whose purse bulges with what ifs. And my bananas behave exactly as yours. Ours get chunked and frozen or mashed into pancakes and adorned with coconut syrup.

30 04 2012
Ryan Namba (@ryannamba)

Thanks, Paula! Those pancakes sound pretty amazing. I believe this is where I deploy the “sharing is caring” line, yes?

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