Welcome back to my unofficial series on writing! It’s a brand new day to write, woohoo! Yeah. I’m tired as hell today and über-sensitive to match (You don’t hate me; I hate me). But onward and upward.
So, let’s talk about process and how writing is always a process, life is always a process, we’re all in process, blah blah blah, spare me.
I had a professor in college who…maybe didn’t quite subscribe to the idea that education is a process. Traditionally, we’ve seen education as a process of enlightenment. You don’t know shit. Then you know shit. It’s like magic!
I was taking a class on literary theory and, as in most classes on literary theory, each week or so we would learn a new type of theory: reader-response, feminist, marxist, post-colonialist, etc.
When I started college, I had this weird, classical education, quasi-Christian view of literature: great art is about transcendence, truth, meaning and probably Jesus.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Maybe it was going to college. Maybe it was going to Cambridge. Maybe it was my ever-expanding frontal lobe.
But—I started to take a slightly different approach to the Great Books™. Call me groundbreaking, but I saw each of the different theories we were studying as just another set of tools for exploring and understanding the text.
There was a sense of play—and a sense of being in process instead of arriving at one static meaning. I didn’t see each of the theories as True with a capital “T.”
I didn’t think I needed to choose only one possible truth from a set of available options.
My professor was not having it: She saw me as inconsistent and inconstant instead of in process. To her, I was just bouncing back in forth between Marxism and reader-response theory like a kid at trampoline camp.
This was 10 years ago, but I think it was a precursor to a shift that we’ve seen in education (or is it on Twitter?), from operating from a place of process to operating from a place of purity—
Be right. Be right all the time. If you’re not right, then shut the fuck up and don’t say anything at all.
When the truth is, we’re all in process. Hopefully. What other option is available to us, other than death and decay? I probably don’t agree with half the shit I believed 10 years ago.
This is where I awkwardly transition into arguing that when we cancel people, we shouldn’t cancel their work. We shouldn’t pretend as if Louis C.K. never wrote a TV show or that R Kelly never penned a pop song. For the love of theory, please don’t cancel the text. Because the text, believe it or not, is always in flux, always open to a new reading or interpretation.
Free the text.
There is no creativity without process.