My almost six-year-old got in trouble tonight because she was backseat driving her brother’s play, repeatedly telling him that what we was trying to do was “so easy.” He is 21 months younger than his sister, so often those things that she finds easy require skills that he is still trying to master. It doesn’t help that most things my daughter has tried to do have been “easy” for her, so my son continually hears how “easy” so many things are. I’m trying to keep him from thinking that there is something wrong with him because everything his sister does is “easy” while for him it is not. I also don’t want my daughter to go through life thinking that everything should be this easy, or that everyone has it as “easy” as she does.
(The one place where there roles have been reversed has been in the swimming pool. My son taught himself how to swim when he was barely two, while my daughter up until last summer never wanted to even take off her lifejacket or put her face in the water. The day my son announced he wanted to take off his lifejacket, his sister kept telling him he would sink and never come back up. I won’t ever forget the triumphant look on his face when he declared “I popped up!” to his sister. He’s never looked back.)
But I digress.
Writing has always been easy for me. I wrote my first “story” when I was in first grade, in French. It was an unprompted story of an elf on Christmas day. The teacher photocopied it and gave it to the entire class as a reading comprehension test. While Language Arts and English was my “worst” subject in school, I loved to read and I loved to write (hundreds of hand-written journals, short stories, poems, and partial novels attest to that fact). I never worked particularly hard on my writing in school because a) I didn’t think the writing assignments were tremendously interesting and b) I knew I would get a reasonably decent grade, so why bother? When I decided to do professional writing in college, I was amazed that I might be able to make money as a writer.
Too bad I hated doing that kind of writing.
But the program did challenge me to think about my writing differently, to challenge me to think about genre and audience and style and language and all that other good stuff one takes for granted. Translation made me see language and communication in an entirely new way. Living in two languages simultaneously fed my imagination and inspired me in a way I had never experienced. The decision, in part, to do graduate school came from a desire to further challenge myself intellectually and exercise my writing muscle in still new ways.
I’ve already said very similar things in an older post, but the comments on my last post left me wondering why it is I write, particularly write these blogs. One might say, I write because I have to. I have always written, and will always write. It’s relatively easy for me to write here, in this space. The words have never been much of a problem. But why continue here, writing this, when I could be writing my academic book, or a novel, or poems, or anything else. Because it’s easy isn’t a good enough answer. Easy is the exact wrong reason to do many things.
And then I realized, I write here, in this space, on the topics that I do because it is hard. These topics, these subjects, these pieces of myself that I leave on the screen are hard to let go of, get out of me, put out there for you to consume and critique. If writing what I write was easy, then more people would be writing about this. But they aren’t. We aren’t. I write to fill the silences and the gaps and lacks that exist because they deserve to be filled, to be named, to be described in whatever poorly spelled awkward prose I can create.
I will no longer say that writing, for me, is easy. This is a lot of things, but easy is not one of them. And I, for one, won’t back down from that challenge. I’m going to keep popping up.
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Anthropology Open Rank (Assistant, Associate, or Professor) of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts