***Warning: This blog post is very long-winded. If you are a hungry college student and the cheese part grabbed your attention, then I am sorry to say that all cheese-related thoughts are limited to the first bit. Thank you. ***
For me, learning to write can sort of be tracked by a downward spiral in ideology. What I mean is that I used to think that writing was the best thing since sliced cheese, and sliced cheese is AWESOME, since it cuts down on a good two steps when making grilled cheese:
1. actually slicing the cheese, and
2. realizing with a sinking feeling that once again you’ve sliced too much and are, once again, going to consume enough cheese to give a horse indigestion. Good thing my stomach is still young and naively forgiving of the things I put in it.
Anyway, I used to think writing was great. No – noble, even. It was the best thing you could do with your life, because who needs a social life when your immortal words would be passed down from generation to adoring generation? I had dreams of grandeur. I obsessed over thesauruses the way some girls obsess over eye makeup (sorry if that sounds bitter – I still haven’t got the hang of poking my eye with pillowed sticks). In elementary school, I wrote in the margins of my math worksheets. In middle school I wrote great Diatribes Against Society in secret scraps of paper. In high school, I doodled song lyrics incessantly on essay tests.
In my first year of college, resolved to hold the title of Proper Writer someday, I bought my first writing notebook, a five-subject, spiral-bound Mead. And that simple decision was the seed of a very large change. You see, consolidating my writing made it:
1. less easily lost and and therefore
2. more easily re-read.
And upon this closer examination, my writing turned out to be a warped version of Lord Byron – sad, bad, and painful to know that I wrote it. Nevertheless, I remained fresh and rosy-eyed. I told myself all I wanted was discipline, revision and to read more books. After all, I was living the dream. I was at one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation and I was reading Milton by my second semester freshman year. There was hope for me yet.
And the hope seemed boundless. The more I read, the more I wanted to be a writer. I particularly idolized the Modernists. To write social commentary as deftly as Henry James, to do away with entire lists of literary traditions at the sweep of a pen like Stein, to break the heart as nonsensically as Djuna Barnes. That, surely, was what I was meant to do. And I was going to do it.
But there came a point when romanticizing writing got in the way of actually writing. This point came quickly. After all, I was at one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation. To hack it, I needed to be able to write, and write well. But I was too swept up in language. I wrote galloping papers that had sentences three lines long. I wrote breathless papers that threatened to bring on hyperventilation in its unfortunate readers. In short, I had forgotten the first rule of writing: its goal is communication.
Funnily enough, it took me tutoring children in how to write a paragraph to remind me of this fact, and the fact that Modernism is dead.