Friday, September 28, 2012

Go Ahead, Teacher, Say, “I Am a Writer!”



            I’m a bit confused.  What keeps persons who almost effortlessly do messages (for example: email, give directions, jot to-do lists, take notes on phone calls, on meetings) from claiming that they are writers? (See debate in the Atlantic .)  If I were asking a congregation of hermits, that’s different; but teachers!  I’m guessing it’s an indictment of our education system that disempowers do-ers.  Maybe I’m more troubled than confused.
            I’m troubled because I agree with Wilhelm & Novak about the urgent necessity for individuals to compose themselves so we can compose democratic societies (Teaching Literacy for Love and Wisdom, p. 46).  And going further, we can’t wait to claim the name “writer” until we produce good writing because as Peter Elbow points out, the place of resonance probably comes in where “writing breaks down.”
            And it’s in the resonance (“where the writer has gotten a bit more of his or her self in or behind or underneath the words—often a bit of the unconscious self,” p. 10) where the vitality can be found that’s essential to composing ourselves, our relationships, our social order.  It’s in writing where we practice composing, where we get ourselves ordered, get clear enough to talk sense, to give directions, even to twitter.  William Stafford put it: “the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe--/should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”
            Wallowing in disfluencies isn’t the pigsty of writers; but to fear chaos threatens our capacity to create order.  The poison of red ink lining out a misspelled word, a comma splice, split infinitive, or (one of my grumps) the use of “less” rather than “fewer” (insert frowny face) might have lost us our inheritance as world-builders, as stewards of a more peaceable kingdom for our children.  It’s time to take it back.  Write!  Write at the edge of consciousness.  Call it writing when you condense hours of living into an accurate status update, when you post on the board directions for the day, when you reflect on the years that composed your capacity so that you can revise what happened today so that tomorrow’s lesson flows with more meaning.  The art of writing participates in the “Meaning of Design” (Denman W. Ross, thanks to Brain Pickings) and happens when we move from disarray to order. 
            Try it, if you like.  Let your resonant field find the word/s (see the display at the top left) that points to the place in your teaching or life and that wants your composing-self to move it to the language that swirls in the creation (suggested by terms in the top right).  See: You Are a Writer!