Assigned reading referenced:
“Why I Write,” Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” IDeresiewicz, “You Talkin’ to Me?” Hampl, “Memory and Imagination.”
I am an unintentional subscriber to the erudition of language. As both Orwell and Deresiewicz lamented, well okay, they lamented lots of things, many of which happen to be traits I occasionally incorporate in my writing, However! As they lamented, I will say things such as "utilized" instead of used. I have been known to throw in unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. I am exercising “pretentious diction” and “meaningless words”. (Orwell)
Am I at fault? Yes. Without a doubt. But so is the system, I'm not a conscientious objector. Particularly in my current environment of pseudo academia, I often find that fluff and atrocious writing receive the better grade, I mean, typically achieve more desirable responses from professors. I’m certainly not proud of the drivel that has my name next to it, but I appreciate the occasional A. I just wish that I could erase that feeling of cheating that drapes itself lightly around me. How are they not on to me?
It’s not cheating, or assuming a level of pretentiousness. It’s a great deal of how I’ve been trained to think. Is it because of the politics inherent in language as Orwell suggests? I think so. Not politics as we typically construe it, but politics shapes what we leave behind and what influence is given to others. Politics determines cultural perceptions. I’m a victim as well as a perpetrator.
Which brings me to the ideas discussed, and even inspired in Didion and Hampl; I mean, to the question. Why do I write? What is it? What do I hope to get out of it? Why have I saved every scrap I’ve ever scribbled upon that I have rescued from my mother’s purging of clutter? I feel like,
I chase butterflies.
I don’t really want to catch them. I did a butterfly project in fourth grade, when I began I had no idea the actual goal is to kill them. We exposed the creatures to fumes (usually gasoline) until they died. I didn’t like that, my nine year old self didn’t really think it was wrong, just, this wasn’t what I’d signed up for. Instead, I rescued their withered carcasses off of the car grill.
I guess, that’s what I do with most of my university level writing. I’m just picking the words off the dirty grill. They’re already dead, it’s not my fault. I got a good grade on that butterfly project as well.
The best part about it was making the nets. Or wait, maybe it was leaping up into the air, or chasing a blue swallowtail across the garden. That’s not true either. It was thinking about it. It was imagining doing it. The idea of catching a piece of nature and keeping it for myself was exhilarating. Or maybe, it’s the memory of the desire that’s the best part of all.
I realized while reading “Why I Write”, that I write not to tell a story, or even about myself, but to capture moments. Moments in which I have felt something, thought something, seen something. I want to take photographs with words. Okay, I want to take photographs also. Har, that would also explain my loverly habit of combining fragments and run on sentences. It’s how I talk, it’s not proper English, but the words capture more of “me” than proper grammar.
I loved the book review, “You Talkin’ to Me?” In fact, I added the first book to my long, long, long list of reading material. Strangely, as an aside, the first essay I read upon getting my textbook was Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” I love the concept of language as evolution. I love knowing how relatively modern the concept of correct spelling is. And the more I learn of other languages, I love the flexibility of English. I try to explain to people how English is so much better for expression, usually I fail. At best I usually get the glazed over eyes from my target. Oh well. Oh, which reminds me of a book I adored, “The Power of Babel”. But that’s neither here nor there.
Language is alive, and it changes. But more importantly, our concepts and interpretations of it change. Of course, I am a History major. I like origins. I like how my own thoughts evolve. It’s like, English and the academics could say and do whatever they wanted, as long as most people weren’t actually academics. It didn’t matter. I think that I would argue that it still doesn’t matter. “Proper English” is a dialect just as “Midwestern” is. It’s a dialect that can be assumed by most, and usually is dropped in “mixed” company. I’m a creature that learned most of her English through books, literature, the first book I remember asking my mother to read to me is Romeo and Juliet. My English is…. often considered peculiar. People, it turns out, don’t really talk like they do in books. But we’re taught in school that they do! As a child my confusion at integration taught me to listen. There are dialects traditional in each form of print media. If you listen to the dialogue in a movie, you can hear the origin of the story and the writer. Each decade and century has a cadence, but, people don’t really talk like that.
Some of us do, we can’t help it. We were raised by the books and schools that didn’t know any better. I’m a contradiction. If left to my own devices I’d leave one run on sentence comprised of fragments and cluttered clauses behind me. I’m guilty of a lot of things, but I don’t want to kill any more butterflies.