I recently picked up a book by the late Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), and noted that, from 1974 onwards, he wrote an essay every month. I suspect that someone of his erudition could have churned out an essay every day on his core subject, but he chose to write these in areas about which he knew little, so that the essay was a means whereby he developed his thinking. As he put it, the essays he liked best “usually take up an unknown or an odd subject, something that was never written about…” I think that Gould’s is an example worth emulating, albeit by a writer of massively lesser stature than him.
So – I have resolved to write myself an essay each month, starting in October 2015. This will not be the sort of item that, loaded with references, gets submitted to academic journals and then, with honourable exceptions, ignored by all but a few. It may be more like the casual blog entry; often I read entries that make excellent essays. I feel that a blog is too provisional and informal, however, and sometimes, reading back, I find interesting items that are submerged in the need to produce current comment.
I plan to write naively, exploring ideas and issues as I come across them. Maybe, at some stage, I might write these into something far more erudite. Or maybe not.
I enjoy essays. I like their provisional nature. I like essays that set me thinking, rather than claim to resolve issues or set out the truth – whatever that might seem to be. If they can set another person thinking – great.
I may write on matters of controversy, and I may well write something that, upon further thought or after deeper research, I might disavow. My usual caveat – if you don’t like it, don’t bother reading! There are vast amounts of reading material on the Web, so please explore those instead if you do not like my thinking, or my way of expressing it.
I wrote this in September 2015. Well…the best laid plans…. Forcing myself to write a monthly essay seems far too much like work, and I can only complain about the boss by finding a mirror. I will be contributing as often as possible.
2016 essays (some!): https://josephboughey.wordpress.com/josephs-monthly-essay/2016-essays/