One of the questions people ask me is how I do this. Whatever this is. I’m reminded of this every semester or so when a random professor asks students to read my blog for their course or pick a teacher blog that best exemplifies their core beliefs. While privileged to have people read my often disjointed thoughts, I think back to two pivotal moments in my writing, two that I shouldn’t rehash but might give some insight to those of you wishing to write this much this fast.
Let’s be honest: writing like this is a fairly violent act. My writing assumes you’re reading it, then it kicks into your mind and waves a 44-caliber handgun in a space that was only a little curious. I don’t intend on massaging that which you already know, or poking at the innards for poking’s sake. Rather, I seek push and pull wherever I can, to provoke to strengthen our beliefs in justice and sense. My writing tries to analyze both sides of an argument, but doesn’t assume both sides have the same weight in validity.
Every so often, I shoot, too.
In the summer of ’96, fresh off my greatest academic year, I went to Lake Placid on my 3rd straight camping trip with my former middle school as a counselor in training. During that summer, the two counselors in training had to take a creative writing class with a counselor and alum who had taken such writing in college. One of his assignments was “Write a piece about your favorite number.”
I asked for clarification, but got none. Soon, I found myself struggling over the number 3. Not only did Schoolhouse Rock already write about it (and very well), but Blind Melon had covered it by then. In other words, I didn’t already want to say anything about the number 3 that had already been said. In poked at the number 3 for a good hour before I just shrugged at the teacher the next day. The teacher only shook his head and said, “You’re never going to be a good writer if you can’t do assignments like these.” No, I can’t be a great writer if you keep GIVING assignments like these!
Something I learned while writing in my own quarters is that the first person that needs to believe in your writing is you. The rest of the stuff comes with practice. Things like technique, poetic license, and flow come with practice, reading, and understanding. Writing takes on different forms, too, depending on audience and message.
That’s why my writing doesn’t bring a gun when only a handshake is required. But it usually comes ready just in case.
Sometime around college, when I started my pseudonym blog, a few people had a secret battle with me over whose writing was better. I didn’t think in those terms because my writing was reaching anywhere between 50 – 300 comments on this tight network. In one instance, I thanked all the people who read my disassembled ramblings on politics and culture in a blog post that amassed about 30 comments. Shortly thereafter, someone wrote that they don’t have time to do such trivial things as thanking people for reading their musings. Then, they added that their writing is respected by college professors and the like, implying that any other reader is regular. Thus, their writing was more important.
The second thing people have to understand: people matter. Whether we think they offer anything of value or don’t, they matter once you’ve made an impact on them through your writing. You never know how many lives you touch until you’ve put the writing out there. Less than a decade after that indirect piece, I’m proud to say that my blog is part of a few professors’ syllabi and reading lists. The people following my writings extend far beyond the scope of my target audience. Yet, it’s rooted in what people like me think. Whether the person is a teacher, a poet, a person changing jobs, or someone concerned with our plight, my writing doesn’t hold punches.
It’s not meant to be politically correct. It’s meant to insight, invite, and possibly unite. The discussion gets richer every time I put one of these thoughts down. This 2012, I’m dedicated to not writing if I can’t add anything that pushes someone’s thinking, or doesn’t follow in the tradition of the type of provocateurs I respect. Until then, it’s back to the relevant, the proletariat, the passionate, the violent.
All you heard was “Poppa, don’t hit me no more.”
Jose, who just wants it more …