Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zeitgeist - the abcedaria of a writer

Zeitgeist  is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age." [1] Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.
this building typifies the zeigeist of the hippy era in Vancouver for me...Gas Town was a mad scene in those days

The term zeitgeist is from German Zeit- 'time' (cognate with English tide and "time") and Geist- 'spirit' (cognate with English ghost, without being really translatable into English - this is why the German term is used).

Note that last bit - we use the German word because we haven't an English one that means even close to this. to capture the spirit - the geist - of a time is something all writers must be able to do. It is hard enough to capture that of another era it is even trickier to capture the spirit of our OWN time. This seems counter-intuitive but it is true if you ponder it. So how do we capture with words the timespirit? We pay attention, we wake-up, we listen, we engage with whatever time period we want to represent in our prose or poetry. The reason that it is harder to represent the time period of our time or close to our time is that there are folks living it who will tell you that you do not have the right verisimilitude - you've missed something - you've put a heroine in the right clothes but you have the wrong slang coming out of her mouth. The thing, the very tricky thing, is that it doesn't have to be exact, in fact exactness would be a problem. Just like with dialogue - exactness would bore or irritate beyond any worthiness it might hold. We need the gesture, the slight phrase that represents the era, the time, the politics, mores and spirit of the time.

We don't need to write down every tune on the jukebox in the diner in 1959 or every item of clothing that was worn by the teens that hung around there after school. Maybe just that Fats Dominoe was wailing out about finding a thrill on blueberry hill, while a hint of pink crinoline pooked out below Brenda's poodle skirt as she twirled her straw in her cherry coke. Too much detail and we see the man behind the curtain, too little or the wrong kind and we put the book down in disgust.

And I'm not talking about writing about what you know. That old idea needs the boot. If we'd had that enforced there are so many fantastic books that never would've seen the light of day. But getting the zeitgeist right - that's an art.

And so endeth the fun ride that many of us have been on for the past month. I've had a ball - how about you? And I can think of a million other words I want to explore ...may have to just keep going.

The abcedaria of a writer
Attitude, Bums in Seats, Compassion, Discipline, Elegance, Friends, Generosity, Heck, Imagination, Jealousy, Knitting, Lamé , Meditation, Nothing, Outlaw, Poetry, Quiddity, Rhythm, Solitude, Turquoise, Understand, Verity, Walking, X-Chromosome, Yes and finally, Zeitgeist!


Anonymous said...

I've popped in for a few letters - my favourite was quiddity.

What a cool exercise - I would like to try it for art or knitting or something.

KatieO said...

Congrats on finishing the A to Z challenge! I've enjoyed your theme ;-) Maybe next year I'll find a theme and stick with it... if I'm crazy enough to sign up for something like this again!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Congrats on finishing the A to Z, been good making new friends while continuing reading friends of long standing.


sue said...

Congratulations! Great last letter. I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet, the Monday round up, then a break for a while. I'll dip back here for some needed sustenance to recharge. It's been lovely meeting you and talking. Take care. Sue

Liza said...

Hooray on accomplishing a month's worth a inspiring writing. Congratulations Jan!

Liz P said...

So glad we all made it to the end in one piece! :)

Great work!

Jan Morrison said...

thanks all! - I'll get back to you all personally over the next few days. I'm very happy with my results in terms of writing - was fun and a bit of a push so just what was needed.
Denise - there were some knitters in the challenge! At least a couple that I found. I think a knitter's abcedaria would be fun as anything.

Gardeningbren said...

Heh...I remember that building in Gas Town.

Can't seem to see your eaddie so Sunday I think..ask at Twist of Iron Fire pits, likely noonish.

Tara Tyler said...

what a great word to end on. very nice getting to meet you =)
happy z day!

Eve said...

I remember that building!! We used to pass by it several times a day...depending on the day! And look, you can see the top of Habour Centre peaking out from behind..thanks for this picture Jan..what memories it brings back! Why, I'd even say it brings back the zeitgeist of those times!

Julie said...

Yay for making it to the end! I've really enjoyed your posts, and this one is no exception.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Jan, we did it! Congratulations! I have an award for you!!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Congratulations on finishing, Jan! Good job!!


Rebecca Dupree said...

We finished! Graet job!

Arlee Bird said...

So Gas Town was the hippie hangout in the 60's? Now it's all trendy and touristy. The hippies grew up, had families, and have money to spend.

Congratulations on making your way to Zed. You did a stupendous job of blogging your way through the alphabet.

Tossing It Out