Day 154: Writer, deconstructed

Day 154: Writer, deconstructed

Day 154: Writer, deconstructed

Thursday, June 2, 2016

“Alright, I have all of your papers here from last week,” said the media and communications professor. An older man with short-cropped white hair, a pair of fitted skinny jeans, pointed brown leather shoes and a large gold earring on the right, he hunches in his seat cross-legged, crumpled, as though hiding his true size. In twenty years they will call this man a hipster. His eyes are large and bulging, like his nose. His voice: tempered thunder.

“You covered an interesting range of social issues, which is good… Now, I’m not handing these back to you just yet. You’re each getting a random paper from someone else in the class.”

And with that, thirty students read a paper not of their own writing for all to hear. Political decentralisation. Secularism. War profiteering. Child slavery. Globalisation. Cultural imperialism. Female genital mutilation.

At the end of each paper, the professor invites everyone to critique the writing, with nothing held back. Too broad, too narrow, too short-sighted, too sexist, too elitist, too Anglo, too naïve, too poorly argued, too mundane, too idiotic…

And when, finally, nothing is left of the paper to savage, the author is named and asked to stand for all to see.

This scenario might come across as an HR Manager’s worst nightmare, but it’s how writers and journalists are trained. And for me, there are four important lessons to take from it:

1. You are not nearly as clever nor interesting as you think you are.
2. Try as you might, you will never be all things to all people.
3. Take ownership of what you write.
4. Grow a thicker skin.

These are not pleasant lessons to learn, but you’ll know when you encounter a piece of writing from someone who has.


About today’s photo: I heard that a café in Melbourne is serving a glass of water, a glass of milk and a glass of espresso and calling it a deconstructed coffee. So here is my impression of a deconstructed essay. I charge by the word, so I have no idea how this is going to work.

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3 thoughts on “Day 154: Writer, deconstructed

    • Don’t give up! It’s more like a rite of passage to think and write in a certain way. I never really stopped to ask whether the rite itself is necessary… but there’s nothing to say it is 🙂

  1. Great write-up and accompanying image, as usual.
    I am reminded how carefully I must write and that I am rather limited in expressing myself. It’s frustrating. These days I write less and less when posting pictures, with the excuse that they should just speak for themselves and allow for an unguided and undistracted viewing experience, but that’s only partly true–it’s also true that I am not satisfied with anything I write to accompany the image(s).
    Your post got me thinking about how useful it would be to have the same kind of exercise in a photography class or group. Photographers can be so attached to their pictures (Hi), but that’s hard to avoid unless you purposely wait for weeks or months after taking them (letting them ‘marinate’, as Eric Kim put it). Those four lessons would help a photographer grow, too. My interest is so piqued I might try it with some photo buddies.
    Looking forward to your next post, as always. Regards.

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