I need a rotten group

I’ll show my students , some of whom seem to be reading this blog (who else would have done searches for the arcane topics of our classes –“Taft let us not go to war speech,”  twenty-two yesterday, for example) that I know how to make a proper MLA citation. Why they’re searching now when the semester is dead and gone, I don’t know.

Because Joseph ... did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Because Joseph … did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Grow too old to write? Au contraire. In actuality the longer one has lived, the better the writer they can become. It can be suggested by many from simple observation . . . that instead of losing a writing ability with age individuals actually grow to watch their skills blossom and become fruitful over time. In comparing the senior writer to a younger. . . there are many obvious ways we can see that the elder can be just as skillful in the writing practice, with maybe even a bit of an advantage. . .  life experiences (Voth).

Voth, Lori. “Senior Citizens: Too Old to Write, Too Opinionated to Publish, or Invaluable Resources? How to Benefit Most from Your Elder Artist
Writer Acquaintance.” Yahoo Voices. Yahoo.com. Oct 16, 2007. Web. 16 May 2013.

The question is, “Am I too old to write?”

That’s not the question. I have to write. No matter what. I’m supposed to be grading the final essays for my classes at this very moment. Not grading them will push my completion time back by some unknown but totally unacceptable amount. Unacceptable to the university registrar. Unacceptable to the students. Unacceptable to me. I have too many other urgent deadlines to be stuck here much longer grading papers.

My slavery here is my own damned fault. I’m the one who created the deadline of last week for 57 students each to submit two essays (actually two parts of one essay) totaling 3500-4000 words accompanied by an annotated bibliography.

But before I grade, I have to write.

This morning will be a challenge for two reasons. I did not wake up with a topic already going in my head. (my suspicion about that was confirmed by Dr. Alice Flaherty, who—literally—wrote the book on hypergraphia. I emailed her [Egad! Did I write that post?] asking if it is her experience that we wake up at 4 AM because we are already writing in our sleep, not that we start writing because we are awake. She replied in the affirmative.)

I’ve now passed over into the “happy hunting ground of the insane” (as my college Shakespeare professor referred to the works of the Bard of Avon, meaning that, like the Bible, Shakespeare’s plays can be proof of any damned- fool idea).

She wrote the book.

She wrote the book.

I used to think for sure this need, this compulsion, this whatever it is (sometimes I think it’s just a bad habit or an addiction) would surely dissipate when I got old, that as my brain slowed down (which is most assuredly has), my devoir to write would, too. It apparently has not. The only part of this that has slowed down is my ability to think of the next word.

I want to ask Lori Voth who she thinks she is writing about writing in old age. Her picture at her website appears to be that of a thirty-something with smooth skin and long, flowing, much too silky hair. What can she possibly know about the way I write? Nothing.

However, her piece at Yahoo (I didn’t really read it, so I’m not sure this is true) is about the importance of writing groups for seniors.

Back before 2003 I was in a writing group. We had one member who was a “senior” (she’s still teaching in a university, so I’m not sure she was as senior back then as I thought). My late partner thought it was pretty funny that I had to spend one evening a week at my writing group. He thought my being up at an ungodly hour writing every morning must be enough writing.

The real culprit

The real culprit

He was not a writer (he was a technical editor, which is how we ended up in Dallas instead of living out our lives in civilization, that is, Boston). But he loved to play with words. And my group soon became the “writin’ group” in his best fake Texas accent. But, as words tended to do with him, that evolved into my “rotten group.”

So if Lori Voth is right—whether or not she’s right because, as I said, she has no call to have an opinion—what I need is a rotten group—someone to read the stuff I write and “being. . . unwilling to expose [me] to public disgrace. . . dismiss [me] quietly” (Matthew 1:19).

One Response to I need a rotten group

  1. bobritzema says:

    If you don’t find a ‘rotten group,’ maybe you can find a recovery group for those with writing addictions! What you seem to be suggesting–and if you are, I agree–is that those of us who write need readers, and not just any readers, but those who read thoughtfully. Ideally, those thoughtful readers will give some sort of feedback. I’ve never been in a writer’s group, but that sor of thoughtful feedback is what I imagine it provides. The sort of feedback that blogs get is often thin gruel, of the “awesome post!” variety. When I grade online discussion boards, I give little credit for that sort of response! If I take a minute to comment on a post, I’ll take an additional minute to make it something other than just “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

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