Academia, Opinions, Personal Anecdotes

Freedom Through Writing

This semester in my grad program I took a class called ENGL 555: Writing in Rhetoric and Composition. I wasn’t sure what this class was really going to be about, but it was with friends, so I decided to enroll. At first we talked about the process of publishing articles and books. There were lots of guest speakers and I learned A LOT about the timeline and expectations of such a process. About half way through we got a new professor who changed gears to focus more on workshopping. This was already an element before, but I was glad it was getting more attention.

Besides The Ardent Few, I seldom share my creative work with anyone. So, I was pretty nervous for the first day of the workshop. I went into it bashing my work and kept interrupting my peers to let them know it was okay if they thought it was bad. Why was I doing this? I knew my writing wasn’t bad, but I didn’t really know if it was good enough. I first shared my piece on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I sat watching my classmates read through it, hoping I could read their thoughts through their facial expressions. Once they were done I braced myself for an avalanche of criticism, but was met with kindness and appreciation for sharing my work. Of course there were edits to be made, but the most important thing I learned that session was to be kind to myself. 

At one point in class we were asked why we write. I had never really thought about that before. For the assignment I put down it’s because I’m able to share my thoughts uninterrupted. While that still holds true, I realized that there is more to it than that. Writing is a way of communicating that can be revised, edited, and molded until I am happy with the message. You can’t do that while speaking. Time is a singular dimension through which we travel. There is no backspace button if I say something I didn’t mean, or pause for when I need to contemplate something a little more before sharing. Of course we can correct ourselves, or ask for more time to think, but ultimately these are additions to our message rather than revisions. Writing frees us from this constraint. It allows us to polish and reflect on our words before sending them out into the world to be perceived. 

If you know me in real life, you may have noticed I sometimes jumble my words up while I speak. The best way I can explain it is like oral dyslexia. I think it’s because my mind goes faster than my mouth and thus the words get mixed up when they come out. Most of the time people either don’t notice it, or they get what I’m trying to say, so it’s no big deal. Still, though, it can be embarrassing and frustrating for me. It makes me feel unintelligent sometimes and is the root of some minor social anxiety. 

By realizing writing is a communication method that can be crafted and polished until I please, I became so much more of an advocate for others to experience its effect on life, which is great since that’s what I’m aiming for in my career anyway. I now stand over the anvil of writing sweating, eyes open, hammering away at the sword of words. I heat it in the coals of passion, tinker with the hammer of revision, and cool it in the waters of reflection. I still have a long while to go as I improve my work, but in this case, the journey is just as important as the goal. I am fervent in this business now that I can look beside me and see that writing was my ally all along, not some chore forced upon me by the evolution of man. 

I found my pen and I do not hold it lightly. It is heavy with the ink of freedom from myself, time, and death. So, I will write and continue to write until its infinite well runs dry.

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