Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

It’s a Given

Recently, I was introduced to a literary concept called donnée. It’s a French word that means “given.” As defined by Answers.com, a donnée is “sometimes used to refer to the original idea or starting‐point from which a writer elaborates a complete work. This initial choice of subject matter may be a very simple situation or a basic relationship between two characters, which is then complicated as the work takes shape.”

This idea, taken a bit further, has been used to describe the central themes of a poet or writer, or the underlying concept that drives her or his body of work. Some think that issues with one’s mother is at the heart of most writing.

I don’t think it’s that simple and it’s probably different for everyone. It’s probably not just one thing but a combination of things.

For me, among other things, issues of abandonment related to my father underlies much my writing.  The poem I posted yesterday speaks to my donnée directly, which I rarely do; I usually deal with the aftermath of it, either consciously or unconsciously–expressed as sadness, fear, or even resiliency. By resiliency, I mean the knowledge that at the end of the day, we must go it alone in order to survive.

I also think that everyone has a donnée, whether you are a writer or not. I think people’s donnée’s affect what profession they are in or how they conduct their lives. What do you think of this theory?

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011


Comments on: "It’s a Given" (21)

  1. yes donnee “given”,a gift, i wrote of a black hole. an orange place in a blender and let run till it burned up, the aroma of the of the orange, the donnee, is not forgot. the smell of the burning blender,the donnee, is forgot. bless that you were donnee, a gift, a home is built, the carpenter ,move on to build. your donnee was life, live thank you, godbless

  2. Laurie Blair said:

    I’ve never heard that term before; I’m going to have to think about it…I can see where a “given” would spur on a particular piece of writing, but that it acts as a catalyst for a writer’s work as a whole is an old and provocative idea. And looking back at the works I’ve done, I’d say in my case it’s true; no childhood traumas, abandonments or anything like that, it’s the way I was born — “different” — and so sadness, fear and resiliency are parts of my writing and indeed my life. I wonder now, are we limiting ourselves? But best-selling authors have done much with the very same thing…

    • Perhaps if we write enough, we can move into another “given?” I guess the key is to recognize it and work on it, if necessary. Thanks, Laurie

  3. Father or daughter? Both Givens

    Cheers A

  4. I definitely think that “healing” is at the core of everything I write. Our lives flourish when we love ourselves. We can only know our true authentic self from a place of love for our self. Hurt sometimes makes us love a part of ourselves less, and so as we learn to fully love ourselves, we heal! 😉 NBL sweepy!

    • I certainly have “heard” that in your writing over time and I love seeing the positive changes in you from the work you’ve done. Loving ourselves and putting the hurt behind us is definitely the ultimate goal. Nothin’ but love to you, too, Justice!

  5. The desire to make people laugh, to lighten their minds and their hearts, if only temporarily. However, my humor tends to be a dish of an acquired taste… =)

  6. Yes .. yes for me it started out as a “given” if only I had come across you with my previous blog… You might have noticed my donnee “given”….. it was about a part of me I think I have hmm “pushed away” I definitely wrote then with a “given” at the time that given wasn’t a path, I wanted to continue to walk down…

    • So you are an example that the “given” can change over time, and for you it seems it was for the better. That’s good. Continue to choose your path! xoxox

  7. I love your new word, and I love your blog. You inspire me SJ!

  8. This is the first I have heard of this word, cool! I love to write songs, it seems like each one of my songs come from a certain idea or starting point. Not necessarily the same “starting point” but usually it is something that I have experienced in life or an event/experience that has inspired me. Thanks for the cool post!

  9. Never heard that word before. I think we are all “given” some gift or talent that we use to make the world a better place. Sounds like you’ve found yours!

  10. What interesting posts you write. I had never heard of donnee. I can understand the concept of from one idea springs a body of writing, but about our mother or father??? Not so sure about that one.

    Ive never thought of where my writing comes from, mainly a desire to help others, but what is at the core of that, I suppose is the connection with my son.

    I’ll have to think about it next time I write

  11. I love that term. I had never thought about it before but now I do – well everything I write comes from a place, or is influenced by that place I come from.

  12. Thanks Sweepyjean for introducing the term ‘donee’ as a ‘given’ – in a writers psyche – like the ‘grit’ in the oysters shell, ‘the given/forgiven’ has the potential to be a pearl of wisdom.
    ‘Donne’ the gift to the writer becomes a gift to the reader. Thank you for sharing your gift!

  13. I had never heard the term before. Yes I believe we all are given something and we just have to identify it and put it to best use. And even if one doesn’t then it is manifested in some form or the other! Thanks for introducing us to a new term!

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