“The saddest words of tongue or pen…” or, “Who cares?”

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.—Somerset Maugham

After two days of letting A. A. Milne and Mark Twain do my thinking for me, I buckled down this evening and composed an essay about my experiences teaching high school English.

Actually, I wrote about half of a draft in which I said that all except three of my students hated writing, and that when I became a better teacher, about a dozen showed slight enthusiasm for writing, and that after the library (to which I had fled in search of a job that would allow me to buy books with other people’s money) connected to the Internet and let students open e-mail accounts, those who had formerly resisted picking up a pen skipped lunch to park themselves at my computers and e-mail students sitting less than a foot away when they could have just turned their heads and spoken face-to-face.

Of course, I said that in shorter sentences, but a lot more of them.

I was planning to say that kids who’d been telling their composition teachers, “But I don’t have anything to say,” suddenly found plenty to say. I was going remark that the novelty of the technology contributed to the verbal onslaught. I was going to mention that the definite sense of aim, mode, and audience also promoted fluency.

I was going to expand the discussion from students with e-mail to adults with blogs. I was going to say that two weeks ago I joined the NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) network and, following its dictates, have posted on two blog sites every blessed day for thirteen days straight, even when I haven’t had anything worth saying.

I was going to say I’m running out of pictures of my cats, and there are only so many poses they’re willing to strike, and I’d prefer not be pigeonholed as a chronicler of cute.

I was going to say that more than 12,000 other people are blogging at NaBloPoMo–poetry, journals, photographs, devotionals, stories, recipes, a plethora of words, words, words. I was going to marvel at what appears to be a compulsion among people who, like my students (and I was going to admit I was at times among that number), would once have found it difficult or foreign or unimaginable to put pen to paper.

I was going to wonder about this desire to create, to share, to vent, to communicate, to play, to do whatever we’re doing when we contribute to the sentences flooding cyberspace.

I was going to say that some people tat or make doilies or whittle, and we write.

Then I was going to draw a lesson, wise and well-phrased, from all the foregoing, and end with a nod to novelist Somerset Maugham, whose words precede mine on this page.

That’s what I said and what I was going to say.

Unfortunately, about three hundred words in, I touched an alien key and deleted everything except the HTML for font, and I couldn’t find the Undo icon because I’d composed on a new blog I’d set up on a rival blog site and I hadn’t read all the instructions and found out I’d have to undo with a keystroke rather than an icon.

So now, instead of referring to Maugham, I shall end by paraphrasing Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, T. S. Eliot, and any others to whom the line has been attributed, and say that this post would have been shorter but I didn’t have time.*

*It would have had better sentence structure, too. But it’s a lot less pompous, ponderous, and moralistic in this who-cares version.

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