Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How'd He Git To Write So Much Gooder?

I've received several compliments on my writing style, which is one of the reasons I chose to move my blog venue to a more independent forum. Many have wondered how I became so well spoken and articulate in my prose (nice verbiage, eh?). Well there are several contributing factors to my propensity towards superlative writing. Here are the two biggest inspirations:

Procrastination and laziness...

Let me explain...

I hated homework. Dreaded, absolutely LOATHED homework. I was notorious for missing assignments and/or turning in incomplete work. I would always put it off until the last minute, if at all. My teachers would try and cut me as much slack as they could, given my (with all due humility) obvious intelligence and test scores, but eventually, there would come a point where my grade would be teetering on the brink of failure due to my overwhelming apathy toward doing work outside of the classroom.

So, I started doing my assignments - at least more often. Oh, I still procrastinated and did as little work as possible, I just started finding every shortcut I could and usually did them on the ride to school or in the scant few minutes before class started. Particularly with essays, reports, and English papers, I learned quickly what would win over the teachers and get me the same grades on assignments that the dilligent bookworm crowd received...

Bullshit. Lots and lots of bullshit.

Ah, the grand olde "Gift of the Blarney", as they say. The same skill that has elevated simple Arkansas hicks to lofty governmental positions of power and acquitted award winning athletes of murder for eons. While my aspirations of simply not being hassled by parents and teachers were modest by comparison, the fine art of Bullshit is an essential life skill that, when used wisely, can embolden the meek, feed the hungry, relieve the downtrodden, and save your lazy ass a LOT of unnecessary work! I became a master at turning 2 lines of facts gleaned from an encyclopedia into a glorious 8 page tome on the entire socioeconomic system of Australia.

I remember having to do a book report in 3rd grade on a book of our choosing that was to have a set minimum of pages. The day before it was due, I picked up a "choose your own adventure" book. This met the minimum page criteria, but required I only read a fraction of it to get a full story to report on. I wrote a full report (that is to say, fulfilling all of the prescribed requirements) and presented it. The teacher recognized my ruse, and confronted me with it. Using my expertly honed bullshitting skills, I convinced her that I fulfilled the requirements by reading a book that had the proper page count, but the stipulation of having to read every page was not relayed to us. Must I report on the cover page as well? What about the empty filler pages at the back? No - just the story was required by the letter of the assignment. point set and match - Keiser. Needless to say, I didn't get away with that again, but it got me through that one.


My bullshitting skills, I found, had applications far beyond the classroom as well. In 5th grade, I was cornered by a gang of local bullies. They were all a couple years older and several times stronger (if not bigger) than I. I smelled certain doom in the air, when my mouth just began flapping. I started using words I'm not even sure *I* knew the meanings to, as though I had been possessed by some literary demon and was speaking in tongues. As such eloquent phrases as, "Huh?" and, "Wha?" came drooling out of the mouth of my prospective nemesis, I began to realize the full spectrum of my power. As he stood there, being made to look like the intellectual equivalent of a rutabaga to his peers, he began to back away, babbling something about how he "needed a dictionary to even beat this kid up". It was then that I realized that the pen (or vocabulary) was truly mightier than the sword (or ham-sized fists).

There were, of course, other less dramatic factors that contributed to my way with words. Having a mother that was blind from birth, I learned to read well from an early age. I was called on to read mail, directional signs, etc., to assist my mother in the day-to-day and navigate us through bus stations and the like. Oddly enough, I rarely - if ever - read for pleasure in my youth. Those books I did were geared toward much higher reading levels. I read Last of the Mohicans and The Hobbit in 7th grade for school with no trouble, and Jean Sheppard at age 10 for fun. Other than that, I didn't pick up a book of my own accord until I was about 20.

Now granted, if you let loose an English teacher on my blogs, he/she would likely have a field day with the dreaded "red pen". Were it not for the spell checker on the computer, my blogs wouflld looiok somethinmg lkioke thias. My handwriting is atrocious and my typing skills are shoddy at best. I proofread my blogs probably a bazillion times and still manage to catch spelling errors, punctuation mistakes, and tweaks that need to be made virtually every time. Nonetheless, I pride myself on my ability to string words together in coherent and articulate sentences. Maybe it'll do me some financial good someday. That seems to be the only part of my life where my bullshitting hasn't quite filtered down to yet.

So, in closing, if you want to write better, here are my tips:

1) Procrastinate.
2) Be lazy.
3) Oh, I'll get to the rest of my tips later....

1 comment:

Charlie said...

That reminds me of an anecdote in which the suthor tells of an essay exam that he took and when he passed, told the professor that it mostly BS, and the professor replied, "Ah, but it was the right kind of BS." Unfortunatly, most of my BS was seen right through by my teachers, who were all convinced of my ability to do better and would accept nothing less than that. Therefore my grades reflected the work I turned in and as a result, I had to retake English 4 in summer school to get my diploma.