They say writer’s write. It’s been almost a month since I posted to my blog and I wonder if writers ever get distracted like I do or if distraction is just another convenient excuse. It’s not as if I abandoned writing altogether. I was invited to be a guest blogger for www.artsjournal.com as it launched a week long conversation on the topic of audience engagement for the arts. I wrote two posts on whether arts organizations should lead or follow and it was interesting to have a community that responded, debated, and posed new ideas. I also spent a fair amount of time reading opinion papers written by graduate students for a course I am teaching. And that’s when it hit me, if you are going to write, you need to write with a point of view. You need to find your inner voice.
In reading paper after paper, I was struck at how good we all are at regurgitating facts, information, and other people’s beliefs and how rare it is to take a stand of our own. And it made me think about my writing, and how many times I pull back and mute my voice, or struggle with putting forth a bold point of view. It’s much easier to hide behind the opinions and beliefs of others, because admit it: it’s scary to step forward and stand alone, letting your voice and/or words speak for itself. When you step out in front of what everyone else expects and in front of the mediocre safe tenets that everyone else espouses you just may become a target. It’s much easier to point out the flaws of the solo singer than any particular voice in the chorus.
It makes me wonder how and why schools are producing so many generic writers? Is it a symptom of something more systemic? Do we really want to all sound like the newscast at ten? Regardless of what news channel you tune into you hear virtually the same report with little deviation, and it’s a miracle to hear any critical commentary. Why is it so damn hard to write what you think, write what you feel, write what may not be the stylistic norm? Why do so many of us have laryngitis when it comes to putting words on paper?
I think it is because writing is an emotional art, yet it is taught as a technical craft. It’s like teaching the rules of what makes a happy marriage without tending to what is at the core: the feelings of the heart. Just like it is hard to whisper those first words “I love you” for fear you will be met with silence or discomfort, it is equally hard to put emotional honesty forward in a published post without exposing something about yourself. Emotion is a necessary ingredient in making a compelling case. Emotion is a necessary ingredient in forming an opinion or a belief. Emotion is a necessary ingredient for living and loving. So why is it such a rare commodity these days when the words hit the paper? Have we truly become an emotionless society?
Emotionalism was for a long time tied to romanticism especially as it related to writing. We live in a time when sentimentality, displays of emotional honesty, and even romance are considered out of vogue. It is much more chic to be witty, clever, sarcastic, and even bored than to be overwrought with feeling. And without feeling or without emotion we just become writers of words that rely on emoticons to tell the reader what we really mean. I for one will continue to struggle to lift my voice, write with a point of view, and dig deep for meaning. I’ll slather on the mustard pack, break out the Vick’s Vapour-Rub, gargle with salt water, and breathe in deep the steamy goodness from the humidifier as I continue to put the words down on paper and listen for my voice to return.