Every once in a while, I’m dumbstruck with wonder by the sheer, improbable miracle of it all.
I was talking to some of my basic writing kids this morning about the point of writing. I’m trying to get them out of the mindset that writing is only something you do because you have to, and that writing’s only purpose is a grade at the end of the class.
I told them the story about Punk coming to me one afternoon many years ago and complaining that there’s no magic in the world. She’d been reading Harry Potter and was feeling cheated that our everyday didn’t include wondrous things conjured at the end of a wand. It didn’t take much for me to change her mind, though – I brought her to a switch that gave us light; to the television that brought us images from places we’d never be and ideas from people we’d never meet; to the faucet where clean water (and hot, if we wish) poured out; and to the car, where I can twist a key and go nearly anywhere I want or need to go. I explained that even though we understand how to make these things happen consistently and reliably, our understanding of them makes them no less miraculous.
Then I talked about ideas. The point of writing, I contend, is to communicate (which, I also contend, is one of our most basic human needs). Think about it for a second; that I can get an idea out of my head and into yours – and in a way that is satisfying to both of us – is nothing short of magic. That we can share feelings and tell stories and learn the answers to our questions and explore ideas that we never would have come to but for our interaction with each other is, I think, approaching the pinnacle of human experience. Writing is a part of that, and it should be approached with excitement and wonder befitting the amazing place it holds in our collective experience.
I think I got some kids thinking a little differently about writing this morning; I know that I left the classroom excited about what I do.