writing: the subject

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004

For writers, coming up with a subject can be backbreaking work. I’ve known Ph.D and masters students who’ve hit the brick wall of “the subject.” Some simply didn’t have one and the ticker just ran out. I used to give students “the subject” in composition but found over the semesters that this could lead to just as much mental suffocation as anything else. You could smell resentment in the clouds of chalk dust, too. Something about the classroom, the world of writing in college, the thought of essays and research papers kills human curiosity. Is that too grand of a statement? Too much of a generalization?

As the candidates for the Dem nomination go about their business regardless of politics, they have to push ideas. Every day. Multiple venues. Constant scrutiny. Talking, writing, convincing–all of these become their job for a few years. They have a subject, troublesome or whateveryone wants to hear. This is a cosmic version of the day to day for most of use, since everyday we have to communicate ideas, convince others, complete projects, and explain ourselves. This is routine. In a way, composition is about teaching the routine of the days to come where the ability to convince and explain becomes an issue of survival.

The writer has to rely on technique whether the project is given or invented. Where does the college student go to find the subject? The thing that they will examine, the idea that will keep them going till the semester is over and they depart for more writing and thinking?

Life.


4 responses to “writing: the subject”

  1. gibb says:

    Exactly…life. Everything is capable of being scrutinized by being held under a magnifying glass to make it more grand, or a microscope to seek out its composition in minute detail, or simply being overlooked. It need not be the eagle sitting in the tree; it can be the grey sparrow at the bird feeder. How very much they have in common!

  2. Neha says:

    May I add to the frustration? I simply can’t think of anything funny with a poem related to death, although lord knows I’ve tried. Life hasn’t been all that kind to lend me an example, though I have been trying to get inspired with other poems.

    I realize that I’m the one who has to bend and break rules, but my mind is not cooperating..yet. I’ve been hunched for hours over a pile of ruled paper with a pen that’s run its ink dry, and all I’ve landed with so far are two sheets of paper filled in with doodles, and a few worthless words. I’m amazed at my ability to churn out positive gibberish.

  3. Beverly says:

    Neha,

    That sounds like death to me.

  4. Neha says:

    Slow, painful, agonising death.