I’ve been preparing for submission my latest ‘academic creative non-fiction’ article – a new genre category I’ve just made up – and, as part of this, I have been reading some pieces by phenomenologists. I am interested in the way some of them struggle with the tension between experiencing the moment and describing it, and what becomes lost (or perhaps found) in the process of putting a phenomenon into words.
Many qualitative (and maybe some quantitative) researchers acknowledge that in the describing the researched becomes changed, and how it becomes altered will be effected by the researcher themselves. So it is with writers. The moment I stop and think, ‘How would I describe the colour of the sea today?’ I begin to try to attribute language to the ineffable. I have to reduce it to the language that I have access to. I am no longer an experiencer, I am an observer, and the encounter between me and the waves is altered.
I believe writers write in order to communicate and they write from a place where their self meshes with the environment. The words I know, the social context within which I live and was raised, will hedge in how I am able to convey meaning. It could be argued that any portrayal I can give, however inadequate, increases possibilities for the reader. On the other hand, as I stare at the water and scrabble around for just the right expression, I am certain it will always be deficient.