Notes From My Knapsack 1-14-16
Writing To Find Out What I Think
A new year, new topics, new themes, new possibilities.
For the privilege I have of writing this column, and the responsibility it is to come up with something worth saying twenty or so times a year, I come back to a quote I've had rattling around in my mental cellars for years, that is variously credited to Joan Didion, Stephen King, Mark Twain (of course), and a few others.
"I write in order to find out what I think."
It's true, really. You start – I start, anyhow – with an idea or two, and you begin with even a bit of a structure in mind of opening and argument or assertion and clever wrap-up. But more often than not, the logic of the sentences and the influence of the expressions start to shift my sense and my story in a direction I didn't entirely intend to go.
And at the conclusion, I read it through for typos and style and such, but I also am looking to see: what did I just say? And sometimes I'm surprised. Rarely do I go "that's not what I meant to write at all," even when it's not. I'm more like "oh, so it reasons out that way… okay."
So who knows what this year holds? Last year I had a thought about Granville history and 1815, and somehow it turned into a mystery of sorts with an actual couple, William and Sarah Gavit, and a fictional character, surgeon's mate and cutler Hezekiah Mirk. I pushed that story about as far as the irregular newspaper column format will let you go these days, and I have a few more stories in mind for my veteran of Lundy's Lane and acquaintance of Rev. David Jones, but they may have to find a home elsewhere.
Politics are all around us (love not so much), and I'm going to continue to say relatively little about that subject. A) because so many others are already going there, and I don't like crowds, and B) what is there to add, really?
My own interests tend to the local, and the community-oriented. Granville is a community in flux, and as far as I can tell, we have been since about 1800. Benoni Benjamin and his three brothers-in-law, John Jones, Phineas and Frederick Ford, and a hired man named Danner met Isaac Stadden on their way up Ramp Creek to this valley in the fall of that year. They liked what they saw and brought back their families the next spring.
The Welsh trickled in from 1802 behind the Rees and Philipps families, then the more familiar arrival in Nov. of 1805 from Granville, Massachusetts. The Licking Land Company left a mark on the land (with the help of men like William Gavit), but soon the canals spurred industrial plans along Clouse Lane and Clear Run, the National Road's proximity opened up paths to California gold and western opportunity, then the Civil War and the arrival of railroads turned this now rural village inside-out and outside-in.
We became a college town by degrees, then the interurban and automobile turned us into a developing bedroom community. Now the internet makes us a global hub with a bucolic atmosphere.
So as our community changes, resists change, and changes all the same, I think there's a place for trying to write out what's going on around us, and seeing together on the page what we think.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.