Archive | December, 2013

Let’s Talk About Literature

23 Dec

I feel a need to preface what I’m about to say with a potentially important note, so here it is:
The following article is by no means a reaction to any particular incident I have experienced, though I have experienced this as a writer. However, it is a general observation I have made over the past several years. It has taken me approximately three years to develop these thoughts on this subject. I would have written about this for my final project in my class on Topics in Rhetorical Theory and Practice three years ago (I think I might have tried to), but sometimes things just have to sit in the crockpot for a while. So I guess now it’s finally done!

I entered the blogging world during college because I was required to have one in several of my classes. I think I’ve had about 5 or 6 blogs altogether. Whew! [English major probs]

See, the thing about writing is that it is used to find or give meaning regarding a subject and promote meaningful discussions on the subject. That is how I have used my blogs–for writing. Writing is what blogs are for. However, other forms of social media, such as Facebook, give a different dynamic to reading and writing altogether; and to add to that, blogging itself has become more popular and therefore used in ways that involve a lot less substance. Because of this cultural shift in the writing world, I’m afraid that we have either forgotten or corrupted the whole purpose of literature. Instead of reading for the message provided in the content we’re reading, we find ourselves seeking out the feelings and intentions of the author and sometimes offering feedback that isn’t constructive from a literary standpoint, or even from a personal standpoint. It can range anywhere from negative responses such as, “I hate this. You are clearly uneducated.” to straight up trolling. The problem with this is that it is insensitive and sometimes cruel. It is purely an emotional reaction with no point except to express (vent) the reader’s feelings (not their critical thinking) about what they have read.

Through the increased availability and convenience of literature, I think we’ve become a bit lazy about reading and writing, and it is simply manifested through this empty language used in social media. Much of the “writing” online these days is really just a bunch of passive-aggressive reactions to other passive-aggressive reactions. So now we’ve started reading everything that way. From people’s Facebook statuses to the things they write about in their blogs, we try to find the reasons why they wrote those things. Well, folks, I might be bursting a bubble or two, but I’m a writer. I’m not the best writer, but writing is what I do for a living and as a hobby, and it takes a lot of work. I have made mistakes with words in the past, but as a writer, I don’t play silly immature games, and I would imagine most other professional writers don’t either. I spend time thinking about topics from multiple perspectives and organizing my thoughts accordingly. I write. I have been trained to do so professionally. The motivation behind why I write (or even read) does not determine the validity of a message I have written (or read). I can write about things I don’t even care about, and sometimes I do, even if it’s boring or I don’t like it. Welcome to the world work of writing.

Literature is the window for education, for learning new things. Do you know how some people have succeeded in life, going from dirt poor to CEOs of large corporations?




Literature isn’t magic, but it sure is important. And the better we know how to handle it appropriately, the more we can gain from it by learning and challenging ourselves. Reading and writing can actually help us become better people. Yeah. Whoa, dude.

So what is the best way to read?

The same way that you best handle a conversation in which the other person is talking. You listen.
You put aside you prejudices and feelings and accept what the other person has to say for what it is. You practice patience.

For a writer who invests a lot of time and hard work into what he or she does, it’s very disheartening to share his or her finished product with others only to have it be immediately turned back on them through the emotional reactions of readers who did not take the time to understand what was written. Writing is a form of art that is created to challenge people’s minds. It’s understandable that a writer’s audience will not always agree, but in settings where literature is discussed academically, for example, there is a way of going about critiquing a writer’s work that remains respectful to the writer while providing constructive criticism and further insight that can encourage and motivate the writer. These are called “peer reviews” and are meant to help writers develop and increase their skills. As grueling and challenging as they can be for a writer, they are helpful. They focus on the task of writing and not on the writer. Any time attention is brought to the writer, it is to be done courteously, submissively, and respectfully. To tell a writer that you know what was going on in their mind at the time they wrote their piece is unacceptable and will likely get you kicked out of the circle/classroom. Why? Because it is simply rude and disrespectful.

As a critical thinking exercise (remember those from grade school?) to put this into perspective, think about how you would want your boss to handle your annual performance review. As you continue your use of literature and choices of language in representing yourself and/or others online, please consider these things and examine the way you go about communicating in the avenues of social media that you use.