“Oh my gaawwwwwd. I hate writing!”
This extended, full-bodied, overly punctuated declaration, emanates with strength, but not actual malice from one of the most vociferous students I teach. The irony of her simultaneous loquacious nature and proclaimed disdain for the words that allow for this is not lost on me. But at the moment it reminds me of all the things I have been thinking as I read page after page after page of forced reportage on subjects ranging from bioethics to drone usage, reproductive rights to media consolidation, the disappearance of empathy as a result of internet use to wealth disparity. Amazing and interesting (and self-selected!) subjects all. And still the writing… it reads like the pained prostrations of an injured (or maybe insolent) child.
When I turn to my student, one who always says to me, ‘Why do you use such big words?’ [To which I always say, ‘Because why not? What else could be more powerful, surreptitious, surprising, thought-provoking, amusing… all at the same time?’] I remind her, as I do in so many situations, that her hate, her vitriol, is always a choice.
How can you hate writing? I think as I reflect on her spoken words, (and the abused lexical orphans I have been trying to salvage in the papers I have been reading.) You, who have taken every freedom these words have offered you, changing them, reshaping and redefining them. You objectify and adjectify. You noun verbs and adjectivize nouns. You coin neologisms with a wondrous recklessness. That’s suss; wet; trifling. They have allowed you to do this in order for you to show your best, most creative, most unique, charming and interesting self. They speak for you, they let you do things to them, anything you need!
How can you hate writing? I wonder as I look at this young lady who has explained to me the nuanced differences between ratchet (the adjective not the verb or the noun) and ghetto (the adjective – of course – not the noun). This same strong woman so wildly influenced by tone – yours and hers.
How can you hate writing? I wonder as I see in her face a wide open future we both genuinely hope for. How else will you be able to leave the legacy you dream of if no one has the ability to write it down, to find the perfect words that can capture all that is you?
That is why I use all those big words, I think.
She smiles and she knows, and this is how I know her earlier attestation is frivolous, flash, perfunctory even. She doesn’t hate writing, she just hasn’t got to know it yet.
And I get back to reading the essays. And the first magnificent paragraph my eyes fall upon begins thusly:
In the near future, we may no longer have to subject our children to the random flurry of the genetic lottery. In fact, thanks to the fascinating advances of modern science, people today can cherry pick certain biological traits for their potential future offspring.
Perhaps we are going to be alright after all.