A New Plot Twist in My Writing Career
by Alan F. Zundel
I’ve been away from this blog for a couple weeks, as I spent a week out of town for my son’s wedding and had some things to catch up on when I got back. The hiatus has given me time to think about the blog.
(Yes, I am now blogging about my blogging, a worrisome development for someone already dangerously self-preoccupied.)
When I started the blog I pulled together the various writings I had done in the past and am working on now, a messy variety of genres, topics, and styles. I had been pondering how to remedy the lack of a coherent focus and finally realized something.
The realization relates not just to my blog, but to my career as a writer and indeed to central threads of my life overall. Behind my meanderings in life and scattered interests is one central issue, really the central issue for any of us: coming to know myself and to find my place in the world.
And I have sought these through the art of stories.
Stories and Me
I have always been attracted to stories and story-making. As a child I wrote comic books and put on plays for other kids. As an adolescent I was obsessed with movies. As a young adult I dabbled in film-making and tried my hand at writing a novel.
Then I became devoted to a spiritual search, searching to come to know myself more fully. I tried to understand my own story, where I had come from and where I was going, and consumed countless stories of spiritual realizations, spiritual teachers, and the archetypal great religious figures.
Soon my personal story expanded to the story of my place in the world, locating my life in space and time as an American living in the second half of the twentieth century. My interest in politics and career in political science were shaped by concern with the story of America, where we had been, where we were headed, and what my role in that should be.
Politics is, of course, filled with competing stories of good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, but even in my field of public policy studies it became clear that policy arguments were really just competing stories, stories dressed up with lots of facts and research.
After 20 years in political science I had a much better idea of my story as set in history, but the spiritual search seemed unresolved. In mid-life I turned to writing a novel, trying to make sense of my now-lengthier story through the lens of a pivotal time in my early adulthood.
This helped precipitate the long-sought resolution of the spiritual search and I left academia to write on spirituality. Over the last decade I also have been a meditation teacher, spiritual guide and professional counselor, helping other people understand the stories they told themselves: the unresolved stories, the problematic stories, the stories that were not true.
Most recently I finished writing a memoir, again working my early life into a story to help me make sense of where I am now. And where I am now, after all these twists and turns, is seeing myself as a writer.
Revamping the Blog
I am turning more toward fiction lately, having written a screenplay, which I am turning into a novel, and have an idea for another one germinating. The blog is meant to be an outlet for my writing and a means of building an audience for it, and this turn toward fiction is what made my older writings and current writings seem disconnected.
But the focus coming into view is that I am someone who has always been examining and crafting stories of one kind or another. Not someone with scattered interests in “writing, politics, and spirituality.” Someone who has one central interest: stories. My own stories, our shared stories, stories in books, stories in movies. Stories that help us come to know ourselves and our place in the world.
So I am revamping the blog to reflect this evolving realization. I intend to continue to focus on my life as a writer, but to shift from writing on politics and spirituality as independent topics to reviewing books and movies.
My political blogging will move to another site, www.rcvoregon.org, where I am promoting electoral reform in my state of Oregon. My spiritual musings—which address the same concerns as stories in general anyway—will be embedded in my writings rather than a topic of its own.
I invite you to come along with me on this journey of examining and creating stories. Your comments and feedback are most welcome!