Thursday, October 10, 2013

That's Affirmative Mr. Zinsser

In his book The Writer Who Stayed William Zinsser writes:

Writer can write to affirm and to celebrate, or they can write to debunk and destroy; the choice is ours. Editors may want us to do destructive work to serve some agenda of their own, but nobody can make us write what we don’t want to write. We get to keep intention
I always write to affirm. I choose to write about people whose lives I respect; my pleasure is to bear witness to their lives. (49-50)

I came across that quote just when I needed it. I’ve been struggling with writing. That’s why I haven’t posted much lately. I have most always been able to get words down and turn them into something for an audience, but not lately. I couldn’t figure it out.

Zinsser’s quote cleared things up.

I have been writing to, as Zinsser puts it, “debunk and destroy.” Given my morale as a teacher, I’m not surprised. My work mood has infected most of my life. I’ve been lashing out, trying to call attention to my situation. Pretty childish.

While there’s no guarantee that I won’t be right back there tomorrow, right now I see the wisdom of affirming and celebrating, building and creating. It’s the kind of writing I prefer to read. It’s the writing that leads me to good places. I’m not putting my head in the sand, but I’m pointed in a different direction.

There was a fight in the school I travel to each afternoon. I was there for the clean up and later thinking about it, I didn’t dwell on how it’s a zoo over there. I thought instead how I would run the place and deal with such things. I wrote a piece affirming how to handle fights in schools, how I’ve seen them handled well. I kept the problem in mind but worked at building a solution. And it felt pretty damn good.

The essay was a page in the book of planning my own school which, so far, exists only inside my head. Maybe, if I keep creating it on the page, it can become something more. Whether it does or does not, that and the fact that I’m happier after having written to create rather than tear down are all the encouragement I need to write on.