On Writing As Revenge

Jose 5 Comments

The Rock, WWE Champion 2013

The Rock, WWE Champion 2013

What happens when your writing becomes revenge?

Not the Twilight-Mean-Girls type of revenge, but the revenge that James Brown yells in “The Big Payback“?

I get that hate is too big a burden to bear a-la MLK Jr, but this isn’t hate. This harkens back to a remembrance, a devaluing, a necessity to reprove one’s ostensible skill even before it fully blossomed. As with other motivations in life, they’ve asked you to step aside, break out a highlight reel, or worse, sit on the sidelines while the supposed pros get to work.

Some of us don’t actually need more motivation, but we’ll take the extra wood for the fire, thank you.

It started at a summer camp in my teens. The writing instructor, at the time a senior counselor when I was merely a counselor-in-training, gave us an assignment: write a paragraph or two about your favorite number. Umm. I didn’t know what to do. I kept letting Blind Melon’s cover of “3 Is The Magic Number” invade my creative process. Actually, who am I kidding? I had nothing because, back then, we didn’t have iPods to remind us the lyrics to the songs, just the first few lines and a couple of hums.

When I turned in my paper, the instructor shook his head and said, “Vilson, you’re a very smart child, but the problem is: you’re lazy.” For the last few years, that and a few other incidents made me wonder whether I should write anything at all. I’ll comply with the papers and read the books, but I won’t do it creatively. I won’t add many descriptors, make cool pauses, or even formulate an opinion.

In college, things change as they always do. Some exposure to poets like Amiri Baraka, Staceyann Chin, and Gil Scott-Heron and writers like bell hooks and Carter G. Woodson pushed my analytical thinking to places I didn’t think possible, but again the doubts came.

What do you mean you’re going to blog? Under a pseudonym? You’re going to cuss people’s ideas out, but actually respect the people behind them? Oh, well, your writing doesn’t get read and commented on by college professors, even though your writing gets 50+ comments. You get featured by the site, so your writing must be garbage. People who know how to write well don’t get featured like this; they get featured the way I say it does.

OK, shut up already. Give me a dollar, some web coding skills, and a proper article in front of my name just so I can lay my thoughts bare for a growing audience.

In a few years, the high school English syllabi trickle into my contact form. The next year, a teachers’ college preparatory dissertation uses my blog as a resource. The year after, the blog gets me published in a book. The accomplishments pile on, even after more teachers complain privately that they can’t access my posts through their school district’s computers.

That’s ostensibly not enough for me.

It shouldn’t matter to you, either. Early on, they do. You meticulously look to see people commenting, sharing, liking, etc. Yet, once you reach a certain point, you jump into an avatar state, as it were, an abstract form of yourself that at once makes you most powerful and vulnerable.

How many people actually care about what you write? How often do you get brought up in conversations that you know you wrote about? How many people recommend you to their friends, or, worse still, ask you to comment on something when they don’t have the words?

How often does someone tell you that your voice isn’t just a gift, but a responsibility to share?

If you have answers to these questions, I’d like to hear them. For some of us, this type of writing isn’t for the self-congratulatory, but the self-affirming, a revenge on everyone who said their form of expression mattered less than theirs. I wouldn’t allow that, and neither should you.

Jose, who doesn’t hate the people who suggested he couldn’t write. In fact, he wishes their writing well, too …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 5

  1. Eva

    Great piece. Interesting that your writing became more analytical as you read more. To quote Stephen King (whose genre I don’t care for but the guy can write): If you don’t have time to read, them you have neither the tools more time to write.

  2. Bill Ivey

    This suddenly reminds me of that song from “The Chorus Line” – you know, the one where they do all these ridiculous acting exercises and the singer just didn’t get it and was repeatedly belittled by the teacher. And then went on to practice her art anyway. The difference being that you probably would feel something if you heard that Karp had died.
    Which I guess is one reason I never miss a thing you write. And for as long as you want to, and whenever you feel it, I will enjoy it. From the bottom of your soul.

  3. mlseward74

    I dont know if I can answer any of those questions, but I wil admit that I did care for a long time. Now? Not so much. Syre, I see what other homeschoo bloggers put out there. Some of it really good and well-written. The rest? Not so much. But I continue to read and share the work of other people. Why? Because I know writing is a very personal and sometimes difficult process I know that just because I share or think something is good, that doesnt mean others will do the same. I am nearing the place where I am ok with that. It takes some adjusting, but I am settling in.

  4. Post
    Author
    Jose Vilson

    Thank you everyone.

    @Eva, thank you for that. You’re right, and so is Stephen. Good writers read as often as you can.

    @Hugh, you’re right. My happiness matters in all this.

    @Bill, there’s a first for everything. “Chorus Line?” Might be the first mention of the musical on this blog … ever.

    @Monise Write on.

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