Have you ever taught someone to write? I don’t mean grammar or spelling or purposeless academic filler, I mean really led someone by the hand into the caverns of their own mind.
Have you taught them to truly communicate with the written word, to turn themselves inside out, filling this blank white space with heaves and screams, leagues of life, chasms of betrayal, the colors, sounds, and smells of the human experience? Have you taught them to close their textbook, toss the wasted paper far beyond their sphere of influence, rise above outlines and rough drafts, and just write?
My son and I were talking a bit last night. He wanted to know how I do it. How I write the way that I do. Hmmm. Yes. That was my response. Hmmmm. So much for homeschooling. I explained that, at his age, he is more than likely overdoing it. Questioning his abilities. Working against a lack of life experience. Trying to make up for it by using words that are too big for him, peppering his spaces with redundant adjectives, and trying far too hard to be lyrical rather than real.
I told him that he is a writer. The very first time he put pen to paper with the intent of conveying emotion, he became a writer. I explained that his job is now no longer to become a writer, but to perfect his craft. And his craft is not my craft. Or anyone else’s craft. It is his own.
Subject/verb agreement will come. Spelling will come. Sentence structure is neither here nor there if you have not yet taken responsibility for your words, planted them, fed them, watered them to effloresce into colors that are different to every eye. A word, a group of letters molded together to create sounds, to create meaning, to create feeling and life.
You give all those words to them the day they are born. Every single word ever created, you gave to them. Now what are you doing about it? Will you teach them that words are bricks to be fitted together only like so, perfect lines and corners, tasteless mortar in between? A solid structure, safe, symmetric, purposeful, correct? Is that the linear grey verbiage scrolling like a teleprompter you want them to see when their passion and desire and fear and anger become too much to bear?
That is why we write, you know. We write because emotion is a palpable thing, a tangible, pulsing, singing, dancing thing. And when it explodes, it does not do so in subjects and predicates. It does not boil over into reflexive pronouns, prepositions, or ‘I before E except after C.”
The dam breaks, the flood rages, and the land is consumed with words. It’s a dance, a dream, a whispered secret, a touch in the dark. Give them that, and they will seek the rest.