Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Writing about writing is like writing about air...

...or rather, it's like air itself. You know, like we barely notice air—other than in certain circumstances: when the fragrance of orange blossoms fills the air in spring, or when it's misty outside and light reflects off the fine droplets floating in the atmosphere, or when there is a sudden drop in temperature, or a million other things that might draw our attention to the air around us for a moment. Most of the time we hardly notice we're breathing it, and just like that, we shouldn't notice writing much, except for a few moments of beauty or strangeness or extremity.
So when I spend so much time writing about what is, essentially, air, I get a little fatigued. It's like walking around noting every inhale and every exhale and every shift in the breeze and the smell of the kitty litter. Yes, it's valuable to be aware, but I have other things to concern myself with. I mean, I have to change the kitty litter. I have things on my mind.

When I'm teaching college writing classes, one of the things that never ceases to frustrate me somewhere in the middle of the semester is that, depending on the class, I find myself reducing writing to a means of communication—something that a writer can do effectively, with power and grace, or poorly. And often I want more in content and less in means, especially when I'm dealing with eighteen- to twenty-year-old students. Writing classes so frequently assume these kids have the content ready to go in their minds and all we are doing is helping them organize their thinking and communicate it well. But they don't. Most of the time they don't know what they are thinking about, or what they think about any topic.

I don't hate it. I like to help them realize that they actually are thinking something that can be communicated in writing in a meaningful way. But wouldn't I love to really talk about something in-depth for an entire term with them so that I could get more complex thought from them...

When I write about writing, I often feel like I have more vital things rolling around in my head that I'd rather communicate. My novel, of course, is not about writing. It's about life and humanity (like most novels) and to write about writing often feels like something lacking humanity even though the task itself absolutely does not. As writers, we have to feel passionately about things to be able to convey something real. I may go on a rant about commas. I may be thoroughly annoyed when they are misused and, thus, obscure the meaning or purpose of a sentence, but I don't feel passionately about them. They serve a purpose, and I may toss a book away or stop reading an article if I can't get past the damned commas, but they will not change the quality of my life. 

Over the last month, I have been distracted by the Tournament of Books, bothered by my deteriorating eyesight that is making both reading and seeing in the distance difficult, irritated by the electoral process and the funny election we had here in Arizona, preoccupied with the class I started teaching about the U.S. naturalization process, and have been preparing for a new composition class that starts in April. Among other things.

So sometimes writing about air seems inconsequential. I mean, what am I trying to do with it? Am I simply writing to keep air pollution away? Have I read enough student writing in my life that I don't want any new writers to come to me for editing unless they understand what I put forth here?

Nah. If I were, I wouldn't be sick of writing about writing. 

But I am over writing about writing for today. Tomorrow you might find something else here. 

Or you might find some more writing about writing.  


  1. writing about writing - I cannot do that! if I try, my creativity disappears!

    1. hmmmn... maybe that's why I'm not writing about writing lately!