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Why Essays?

John W. Pinkerton


Lately I've noticed that I write more about myself than I do about the outside world: because of my health, I don't get out much nowadays, and I depend on conversations with friends and strangers who visit my home to trigger the subjects I write about in my  essays.

Once again I've turned inward to think and write about why I keep turning to essays as my chosen form.

I never wrote essays when I was in school other than those assigned.  I never wrote essays during the years I taught.  In fact, I wrote very little until I retired.

My attractions to essays struck me the other day as being a little…odd.  I got to thinking maybe it arrives aboard my very being…who I am.

I've noticed that I have a tendency to summarize whatever I may read regardless of the original's complexity or length.

I leave out the details and boil the subject down to its bare bones.  I used to feel remiss in this tendency not to retain details---dates, names, and other elements my mind apparently considers to be trivial.  As I grow older, I don't regret this as much.  At least I keep the main thoughts, the main themes.

Looking back on my early life, I realize this is how my mind has always worked.  I chunk out the details and keep the essence.

I treat even religion this way: do good, honor the Lord, and hope for the best.

The one thing that really sticks with me are interpersonal relations.  At one time---until I was about thirty---I could replay personal encounters in my mind like a 3D movie.

I still don't lose much of interpersonal encounters today.  I suspect this was an ability which has helped me survive dealing with folks all these years.

Well, I guess this doesn't help explain my attraction to the essay form, but it does help explain my ability to recall details from long ago that I often include in my writing.

I do adopt subjects for my essays from the radio, television, and the net, but the ones which grab me are the ones which I am able to adopt from personal interactions.  They seem to just grab me by the throat and scream at me, “Good subject, fool.”

I have pretty well accepted that I'm never going again to be able to get out much among folks.  That's one reason I do enjoy having folks visit me.  My body is a mess, but my mind is still intact.

If you have the subject for an essay just lying around unused, send it along to me; perhaps I can do something worthwhile with it.  Thanks.