A common theme that we have seen emerge in our readings for this class thus far is the importance of authentic writing, that is, bringing a sense of honesty to your piece. This was also the case when I took English 325 last year, and from that point onward I decided to make that my mission for my writing. As I’m sure is the case for many others, a brutally honest piece of writing truly stands out to me, and I can’t help but admire the realness and blunt nature that some authors are able to bring to the page. An example of writing that fits this is an essay that I read also in English 325 called My Body, My Weapon, My Shame by Elwood Reid.
“Forget touchdowns, I played football for the chance to hit another man as hard as I could – to fuck him up, move through him like wind through a door. Anybody who tells you different is a liar.”
This is one of the first opening lines of Reid’s essay in which he details his short career playing football for a Big Ten school (fun fact: it was actually Michigan). Even my first time reading it, I was already hooked by this line. The cursing, the blunt nature of the statement, and the unapologetic shock factor all combine to form the style for the rest of the writing, a style that says, like it or not, but this is how this shit went down.
And shit did go down.
Reid does not hold back in this paper as he describes everything from the “silence [that] follows the cruel twist of limbs as the pain rushes in the way oxygen blows through the streets of a firebombed city” as the result of a hit during a game, to the highly immoral behavior that surrounds him as he revels in the glory of being a star athlete in an environment that worships it.
Reid is not here to hold your hand or give you a trigger warning before he dives in. He is not here to sugar coat his experiences to protect the reputation of his alma mater. And I am glad that he isn’t. It makes for a truly engaging read.
This is the type of impact that I want my writing to have. I want to be in control of how my reader understands and reacts to my writing, and I can only hope to write something that will someday have a profound consequence on those who happen to stumble upon it.
Even the ending provides no solace for the reader if they are hoping for an uplifting conclusion. Why shouldn’t the audience feel the pain that the author does?
“Sometimes my neck and back lock up without warning, and I fall, and I’m reminded that I did bad things for football and it did bad things to me. It left me with this clear-cut of a body, a burned-out village that I sacked for a sport.”
It is this passion, this depth, this emotion that I wish to emulate.