Preparing for a university lecture I'm giving this week, I found myself typing this rather unexpected sentence:
"Writing, my friends, is a forgiving process."
I looked up from the screen. I tried to conjure the incredulous faces of the students in Malloy 020. I tried to guess at their thoughts. (Is the woman mad? Has she seen all the red ink on my last assignment? Does she know anything about grades? Expectations? Standards? Honors? Does she know how hard writing is for me? Does she have any idea how I beat myself up over it--or how sometimes I just give up and don't care? Does she actually get paid for saying stuff like this? Should we forgive her?)
I reached for the keys.
"I marvel at it. At how forgiving writing is. Look at how you can take a pass at a sentence. And then another and another and another. Each time trying to bring it closer to what it is you are quietly, or urgently, trying to say. And writing allows you to do that.
"Writing is forgiving. Writing is forgiving. Time is not. Deadlines are not. Deadlines are stone. The trouble is, at various points in our lives, we're invited to confuse and conflate the two. School is one of those places where this can happen.
"But writing is not stone. Writing is range. Writing is luxury. It is not miserly. It is never stingy. We may experience miserliness in relation to writing--deadlines--what we call writer's block--sometimes it's the impulse simply to grunt toward the bare minimum, and see if we can get away with it--but as a medium written text is never miserly. It is ever, ever generous. It forgives you. It forgives you even that.
"Never doubt that writing is there for you. That it places at your disposal an incredibly successful, finely tuned, intensely tested technology we've all been sailing with for over three thousand years now. The rudder may fight you at times. But it is in your hands. It was made, in fact, for your hands."
"Try to remember this."
Try to remember.
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