Subjects and Positioning

Sometimes when I write a sentence like that,
I pretend I’m not me.
—My Friend Michele

Joy and peace, Camper, and welcome once again to Uncle Jerry’s Writer’s Corner. Open your little word-processing program to a blank page and copy down what My Friend Michele says above.

Pretending is a big part of writing; don’t kid yourself about that. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing: it could be fiction, a book report, a sales analysis, or a love letter. Point is, when you put yourself into words, you’re not just writing down what you think; you’re creating a character. You’re working from what them big-time, tenured professors call a “subject position.”

Having a subject position is nothing to be ashamed of. It just means you lean one way or another. In the act of writing, you are creating yourself and leaning yourself into a subject position. It's not your fault; you can’t avoid it.

Uncle Jerry’s friend L.T. Green, from Muleshoe, Texas, used to say he leaned one way or another only when he had to pass a little gas. Was L.T. a professor? Well-spotted, Camper. "Professor" is a subject position, too, though some professors are not full of gas.

Sometimes, amazingly, you find yourself writing along, and hey—you didn’t know you were going to write what you just wrote. Your position has changed. Things look different. It’s like finding yourself in someone else’s house, looking at furniture that doesn’t belong to you. You step over the cat and pick up the guitar; you look at the photos on the wall—you don’t know these people, but somehow they look familiar.

Once, as a small boy, Your Uncle Jerry found himself looking into a neighbor’s very well stocked liquor cabinet. What happened next, Uncle Jerry can’t remember, but the nice doctor is helping him recall some of the following weeks in the juvie detention center.

Never mind about that.

What Uncle Jerry’s friend Michele means by “I pretend I’m not me,” is simply this: when she writes herself into a new subject position, she tries it out for awhile. She leans into it. Why? Well, Camper, sometimes it’s just fun to see the world from a different angle. And sometimes everyone needs to pass a little gas.

Peace and joy.

Chapter Seventeen of Molly's story finds the uncles in a very difficult position.


  1. Dear, Dear Uncle Jerry. I once knew a very wise young man who said, in defense of a fellow student, "Suppose you tried on a pair of pants and they were fine for a while, but then you wanted to change them and couldn't get them off? Cut my friend some slack for trying on an idea." Well, at least this is the essence of what he said, so cut me some slack, too.

  2. Dear Anonymous Camper. Your Uncle Jerry is very much in favor of trying on new hats, boots, pants, and new ideas, too. Sometimes it's great fun; always gives us a new outlook.
    On the question of trousers too tight, it's the one wearing them who needs to cut some slacks. Or they might try fasting a few days. I think that worked for Winnie-the-Pooh. In any case, it's a clue that the position they're taking won't encourage personal growth.