Recently, TJ posted a great bit about how to balance a more main stream voice with more academic content all while keeping the writing clear and rigorous and genuine (at least that’s what I took from the post – hope that’s fair, TJ), and I’ve been thinking about these ideas ever since. I find myself in the same place that TJ is where I write scholarly work (and seem to write it well, if acceptances for publications and such are any indicator, which I’m not sure they are) and creative work (less success in the publications there) but don’t often get to blend the two. Additionally, when I’ve tried to blend the two, comments like “Cumbo uses an unhealthy reliance on an extended metaphor . . . .” seem to crop up a lot, an occurrence which is frustrating because I’m not a person who likes to separate areas of life . . . I like it all to seep together and form something yummy, like chile. My writing life is like chile. (See, there’s one of those “unhelpful” similes again.)
But this quandary is coming up right now for me as I try to write a book about the current interest in supernatural things – as evidenced by shows like Paranormal State and Ghost Hunters – while also bringing my own experiences into the mix. I don’t really want to write a memoir for a few reasons:
1. I don’t have that much to say personally on the matter.
2. I want this book to push beyond the confines of “supernatural” literature, the confines that seem to keep those books from receiving larger attention because they are weird or looney or too “new age” for most folks.
3. I’d like to weave in research in an accessible way so as to portray a continuum of interest in things like ghosts and mysticism.
But I don’t want to write a strictly scholarly work for the same number of reasons:
1. I want the book to be accessible to mainstream folks, not relegated to the back shelves of giant university libraries.
2. I want the book to be personal because this topic is personal for me, and I feel that the personal makes things more accessible.
3. It may not be, probably is not, possible to write a scholarly work on something that is largely unprovable.
So I’m in a bit of a quandary here, and I’m digging my way out of it through reading and writing (the ways I make sense of anything), and right now, I’m at a place where I think I may be writing something like Tracy Kidder writes, heavily researched but also accessible and occasionally personal.
What do you guys think of this idea? Do you have any models that you’d suggest?
Thank you to you all for all the book recommendations and such you’ve made . . . you’ll all get a credit in the book – really!