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Published by: scoop712 on Oct 19, 2008
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Ryan Thomas AP English—Period 5/6 Ms.

Leitze September 8, 2008 ONE FOR ALL “I will write, as in the past, simply for the pleasure of writing, for myself alone.” - Gustav Flaubert When did great writing become so horrible? At some point, society shifted its standards as to what constitutes “good writing” from the works of Hawthorne, Twain, Poe, and Bradbury, to those of Stephanie Meyer and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Writing lost its status as a vehicle for the reader’s outer and inner awareness, and became a showcase for the author’s abilities to arouse appreciation or shock, for their personal artistic expression. While this bastardization of an art form is well and good for the thousands who earn their pay turning their emotions into our entertainment, it robs the masses of edification, in this, the supposedly most troubled of generations. Anyone who writes merely for him or herself wastes both their talent and the world’s time. I do not mean to say that writing needs be unpleasant—any artist who crafts a great work, a sculpture, perhaps, or a novel, more relevantly—will and should feel excited at the prospect of having used their talents to their fullest extent, and having thus created a lasting imprint of those talents. Just so, an athlete delights after straining him or herself to exhaustion, and finding those efforts rewarded in loss of weight, creation of a more defined, handsome physique. However, one should never regard this enjoyment as the purpose of writing, nor the sole reason for it. Exuberance should merely indicate that one has put their talents to good use.

(2 The term “good use” begs a definition, though a short one would be an oversimplification. One must think of writing as having a distinct purpose. Though it serves many functions, writing only fulfills its purpose when it acts as an engaging medium thorough which readers are both morally or factually educated, and also made aware of dangers in their culture that they may avoid or prevent once they learn of them. Moreover, the morals, facts, and/or dangers related to the reader must be little known or often observed; in other words, the writing should truly be novel to its audience. Otherwise, literature offers nothing enriching, except perhaps a different perspective on its subject—but in its own right, a new perspective is worth much less to a reader as a new way to live. And if writing offers no enrichment, why should it be read? Some may argue that all enjoyment is worthwhile—I would have been among this vague grouping of “some” very recently. However, maturation brings new insight into life, or at least, the impression that one has gained new insight; either way, I no longer believe that empty entertainment has any place in one’s life. Time devoid of either pure joy or true purpose is, in this clichédly brief existence, wasted, and lost. Watching a humorous television program is certainly energizing, and usually a relief from the daily, supposedly inescapable, stress and depression of work, school, or even, troublingly, total inactivity. However, the time spent on the program yields no information or insight that will improve in the least the quality of future time—and as any broker will be swift to say, to invest without yield is the surest measure of stupidity—clearly not a positive activity.

(3 Why, then, would writing fall under different standards? The fact that printed jokes truly only vary from visual ones in that they require a larger attention span does not justify either, but condemns both. And the fact that reading about authors’ personal feelings and grievances gives the reader a sense of camaraderie with those authors, a sense that their own struggles are paralleled, is also no reason to read these sentiments. Indeed, this identification between writer and reader is actually fodder for an argument against reading such material: it encourages readers to wallow in their disappointments or sensitivities, as the author is doing, and in doing so, focus on life’s sorrows or ignore its simple joys. Either of these is a crime. Yet, most authors get away with murder – the murder, that is, of literature. As a writer, if not an author, I know the temptations of writing what is enjoyable to write. The allure of crafting witty or poetic phrases is more than great. Such sentences always feel innovative, insightful, and interesting when one is writing them – and they always feel tired, trite, and tedious to readers who have tasted the true originality of great writers. However, that very originality is what tempts all writers to invent where invention is excessive—every time a gold nugget is unearthed, a rush of hopeful imitators gathers. Once, readers regarded this empty writing as the pursuit of fools, a misuse of talent. However, the line between this emptiness and truly deep writing has vanished in the minds of most; usually, because they have never had cause to know anything else. For why would a child read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when The Adventures of Captain Underpants are available? Thus enjoyable writing begins to pass for great reading, and both a writer who could have depicted a less exciting, but more

(4 edifying, subject, and a reader who would otherwise set his or her sights on a classic novel settles for an “instant classic”. (Funnily enough, a term intended to grade books as obvious successors to the true classics actually describes them, very aptly, as cheap substitutes for classics, just as instant soup has none of the qualities of its natural counterpart.) Writers who allow themselves to fall into this trap too often lure others into it – not other writers, but readers whose minds become limited by the writer’s self-absorbed creations. In this way all people slowly become trapped, unable to learn or live, surrounded by cheap playthings that lose their appeal after they wear in the least. Luckily, true substance remains alive in the classics—however, they will soon vanish beneath the pile of highly acclaimed rubbish that grows higher every day. The only hope lies in writers abandoning their pretension, and once again creating substantive art, with purpose and the power to change readers for the better. When most writings are just distractions, folly soon becomes life’s substance – and with such a weak substance, lives are sure to crumble. But if writers once again create meaningful works, society will have the chance to turn its attentions once again to such literature, and in doing so, gain some semblance of wisdom and real happiness. In the hope that I might help make this the case, I write, unlike in my past, never simply for myself.

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