Friday, February 8, 2008

Literature of the Vapid

If dreams are like movies
then memories are films about ghosts

At the risk of sounding too "wah wah, poor me *sniff* *sniff*", I typed this up last night. I just want to note that I don't consider myself to be all that liberal or "damn the man". If you know me personally, you know I don't tolerate slack-asses and I have no respect for those who just sit on their asses, smoke weed, complain about the world/society, and do nothing (whatsoever) about it.

I’m taking a document processing class online as many of you know. In this class, we have to do a lot of timed writings (which I absolutely hate, by the way) and a lot of typing out of “office” documents. While I was plugging away in the usual fashion tonight, I noticed a disturbing trend. Of course I’ve noticed it before, but it had never gotten to me as much as it did tonight.

It’s absolutely horrible to type words like “effective” and “procedure” and “analyzing” and “productive” and “benefit” over and over again. You just want to yell at the copy, “TRY SOME DIFFERENT FRIGGIN’ WORDS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”

I got to thinking about business English and newspaper English and “teacher” English and the dreadful entity that is Word Grammar Check. I realized that these vapid, irritatingly PC uses of English are becoming the norm. Why? Because the beauty of the written word has been replaced by the easiest way to write and understand the written word. Long, heart-felt, beautifully penned letters have been replaced by staccato e-mails. Thought-provoking stories have been replaced by flash fiction. What happened, English speakers?

Granted, I do it too – I send those choppy e-mails and have made attempts (poor ones) at flash fiction. It all comes down to time. Nobody has the time to spend on eloquent turns of phrase. Even those of us who really WANT to spend the time aren’t able to because we have become obsolete. We’re forced to work at jobs we hate and to move with the folks in the fast lane – because it’s the only way to survive these days. We know we could do so much more with this time spent keeping up, but we never seem to get it, so we end up just like everyone else. Is this the reason for a recent lack of true classics?

How many would-be novelists, painters, musicians, playwrights, dancers and actors are too busy keeping their heads above water to work on their true calling? How many creative children aren’t allowed to create in favor of classes that only help them pass standardized tests (and don’t truly teach them anything)?

I don’t have a solution to offer on this subject. All I know is that I don’t mind staying up until 2 a.m. and being a little late for work for the sake of my art. And I know that it disturbs me that I’m forced to do that.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in hard work or that I’m lazy. I do believe in hard work – very much so. And I’m only lazy when I feel the strain of all this “keeping up.” I just feel like a lot of folks would be better off (and the world would be better off) if our society had a little more respect for those of us of the right-brained persuasion.

"Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" Probably the best Counting Crows song post-August and Everything After


  1. I love well-written letters and e-mails, and when I receive one, my reply is so much higher quality.

    As for "keeping up," I believe that in many ways that is a self-imposed expectation. We choose to fill our lives with too much and then complain that we don't have enough time to pen that letter or write that story. After all if I really wanted to write that note, I wouldn't be writing this comment, would I?

    While our society is fast-paced and it can feel like a trap, there are people who reject the fast track and the lifestyle that stifles whatever creative energy they may have. So I think that to a large extent we can choose to reject the "American way," it just takes some ingenuity, effort, and discipline.

  2. I'm beginning to wonder if you watch YouTube for literary inspiration? :P (And no, this wasn't a well-thought or written comment.)

  3. I need to be cruising around commenting on old blog posts like I need a good case of pink eye. Yet here I am.

    The hazard (one of them, anyway) of being a writer is taking five minutes to craft an email saying, "My child is sick; I'm staying home." Whereas the less gifted will dash off, "I need to stay home because my child is sick" in about two seconds flat. I exaggerate, but maybe you know what I mean.

    Creative work is depressingly non-remunerative for most of us, and so we all have day jobs. But I reckon no one can tell whether I'm writing documentation or email or songs or poems most of the time I'm at work, so I guess it could be worse. I used to work in a factory and write songs on the backs of speaker boxes. That wasn't so bad either, really.

    On the other hand, "effective" and "procedure" are pretty nasty words now that you mention it. I'm going to try to go the rest of lent without using either of them.


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