where the writers are
Writing the Hard Stuff

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this:  "Well, you're the writer."

Great.  That can only mean that some onerous writing task is at hand, and it's my job to do it.  Just last night when I was posting the ad for my Volvo and I kept asking what I should mention, Michael said, "Well, you're the writer."

But this ad I don't want to write.   What do I know about 2.4L turbo?   I also do not want to write synopses, summaries of any kind, query letters, tag lines, job/college applications and letters (though anyone with children knows that's the task or helper task of a senior year parent), and though I do love to help friends, I'm not loving the personal ad, though I manage to knock out some good ones.   There is pain in that kind of writing, the ache of not knowing how to say it or not really understanding why I have to write it in the first place.  "Read the damn book," I want to say.  "Figure this out for yourself!"

Or, "She's great.  Date her," should suffice.  What about, "Trust me, the car is fine."  There's always, "Accept him into your flipping college, for god's sake."

Of course, not spending the time on the writing would be counterproductive, so I slog through the task at hand, and that slogging brings me to my students who seem to always complain just the same way when I am asking them to write an essay.  For me, essays are hard but fun.  I enjoy writing them, just as I enjoy writing fiction and poetry and complaint letters to anywhere, USA.  I'm not as adept as essays, but the striving toward something whole is pleasurable.  But not for most of my students.  I can see the irritation on their faces.  They want to say to me, "Look.  Trust me.  I know all about advertising in America, and I don't think you need to make me prove it."

But I do, and that feeling comes over them, the feeling that grips me when asked to recapitulate an entire plot.  Gak!  Ugh!  Horrifying sentence after slow sentence appears on the page.  Gak!

Knowing how they feel, you'd think I'd be able to relate and help them.  My advice to just move through the idea doesn't seem to work, and what they turn in is often as scintillating as a summary.

So last night as I was writing my Volvo ad, I kept thinking that maybe the idea is about selling.  Selling a car, selling an idea.  We are not sold by lackluster writing or flat, stolidly placed sentences.  We want to excitement and allure and verve.  We want to feel pulled in, mesmerized and attracted, even if the writing is about advertising in America.  In fact, advertising is the perfect topic, I would think, the selling of our ideas, in essay form, to the masses.

I'm not sure about all this, though, and working against student antipathy has been one of my teaching challenges.  I've tried just about everything that I can, and I will bring my little discovery to the classroom come August.  I will think of myself writing the damn ad, slogging through car details that bore and upset me, and show them that despite this, I had seven responses in my inbox this morning.

Somehow, despite myself, something I said worked.


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Only Driven to Readings

Great Volvo for sale. Last owner a writer.

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That would have been a great line!  Okay, if the car doesn't sell, I'm stealing your beautiful prose, without credit.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com