From the moment I read the prompt for this assignment, I knew I would choose one example to epitomize both requirements. I hope to emulate every piece of writing that I find excellently written and intellectually/artistically engaging, because that’s what good writers do!
Yet to be honest, this assignment was especially challenging for me. To start, I come across pieces of writing that I hope to emulate almost every day, so it’s hard for me to think back to just one example. Secondly, I feel that most of what I wish to emulate comes from a variety of texts (memoirs, blog posts, articles, etc.), but not necessarily your average best-selling novel. I find myself wanting to emulate the articulate and insightful messages conveyed in speeches and TED Talks, but not necessarily George Orwell’s 1984. Perhaps this stems from intimidation, or perhaps it stems from my unwavering desire to find my own authentic voice.
When working at this assignment, I tried to think about my goals for Projects 1 and 2. At this point in the planning and brainstorming stage, I notice myself leaning toward a project that has a socially conscious purpose. I’m not exactly sure how to convey this purpose just yet, but I ultimately hope to send a strong, potentially difficult-to-hear message to the world. I want to present a call-to-action, and force my audience to see something from which most people turn away. In thinking about my aspirations for this re-purposing assignment, I immediately thought back to a book that I read last summer: The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. This book, written by Adam Braun, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Pencils of Promise, does exactly what I hope to achieve. His book inspires its readers, and sheds some light on a difficult, but nonetheless present issue. One particular passage from his book that I hope to emulate, and that I also find well-written and engaging, is as follows:
“You may be safe, but I am free. Take advantage of the freedom that comes with your youth. Inhale life, exhale fire, and embrace the late, sleepless nights, because that’s when the magic happens—when everyone else is asleep and you’re awake thinking about the world as it is, and the world as it could be. Make the most of those moments […] And in the coming years people will tell you that you’re too young to change the world. I’m here to tell you, that’s fucking bullshit.”
One reason I choose this piece of writing is because it might not stand out to most people as the most “excellently written” piece in the history of literature. But that is exactly why I like it. It doesn’t use pompous jargon or unnecessarily wordy phrases. Instead, it gets right to the point and makes the reader believe that there is no better way to make such a point. The passage is inspiring, brutally honest, and poignant: everything I hope to achieve in Projects 1 and 2.
If I were to reverse-engineer this passage with Pinker’s wisdom, I would make note of the juxtaposition of “inhale life, exhale fire.” The phrases are short and abrupt, while the phrase immediately following, “and embrace the late, sleepless nights,” rolls off the tongue in a more poetic, fluid manner. I can picture change-agents like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malala Yousafzai breathing fire as they share their important message with the world. The following phrase, “the world as it is, and the world as it could be,” is especially powerful because it implies that the two are strikingly different. The world is not as it should be; the world is capable of changing, and it could be so much more. Similarly, the contradictory nature of “you may be safe, but I am free,” suggests that being safe and free are not one and the same. To be wholly free, must we first experience the feeling of being insecure and exposed?
By cursing at the end of this speech, Braun drives his message home with full force, and in the words of Pinker, he ends strong. He doesn’t sugarcoat his argument or tiptoe around reality; he tells it like it is. His apparent anger about the falseness of the preceding statement, and his unwavering belief in youth’s ability to effect change, empowers the reader to get angry and passionate, too. I hope to instill the same passion in my viewers for Projects 1 and 2.