Writing, the (Anti)Social Act




The CCCC (Conference of College Composition and Communication states in various ways through its principles that teaching writing in a postsecondary education system is in one way or another a collaborative/social activity.

Sound writing instruction considers the needs of real audiences.
Sound writing instruction recognizes writing as a social act.
Sound writing instruction is assessed through a collaborative effort that focuses on student learning within and beyond a writing course.

These principles, in theory, all make sense. Postsecondary instruction is in and of itself a social experience. Students step forth with new titles, peers, academics, into unfamiliar territory together, crossing thresholds and reaching milestones through the skills they develop through working together, having ideas jostle off of one another’s, finding new and innovative ways to make their claims and cleave a piece of the greater collegiate landscape for themselves. Writing studies is a social experience, as it should be. Without exposure to new ideas through fellow students, the dedicated tutelage of those who have experience in the industry, and the support of those in a similar position to yourself, growth can easily be stunted.

The ways in which writing studies are taught, however, in such a collaborative way, can drastically differ from the way the craft of writing is enacted by an aspiring author.

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.” – Earnest Hemmingway

Hemmingway is not alone with the stance that writing is a lonely task. The craft is made to be studied socially, but the process, according to some, is meant to be done in isolation. As I sit here, on the second floor of a Wegmans, surrounded by people pushing carts, eating food, working behind deli counters, the seat across from me is vacant. There is nobody beside me to reflect on my words, ask me questions, find a focal point to my incoherent musings. I’m alone in a crowded room, while I write, unsure of my specific audience or intent. I am a bridge between worlds, one a community of like minded writers, one a world of potential readers, and one entirely in my own head. I am a bridge that sometimes struggles to be just what it is.

When we produce writing with an audience in mind, we are acting upon a relationship. Doing the work itself may be insulating and isolating but the work we produce is for something greater, something beyond our individual selves. Every keystroke or drop of ink, every shift of a number two pencil in a cramped hand means something, something that can’t be discovered until the work exists outside of the universe that is the writer when they sit alone at a desk or a table and compose idea, conducting a cathartic release, a melody of metaphor for another universe.

I know, at this moment, that I am perhaps writing for an audience of one: the part of me that wishes he had worked to become a writer at a much younger age, a child memorialized and buried deep in the shaky ground of adulthood, but if by chance there is another person that stumbles across this post, one that fails to recognize the bridge they are between worlds so many worlds, and how their words can make a difference, I am going to ask them now…

Find yourself in isolation

Find your message to a younger you

Tell it to yourself

Act upon it now.


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