Unwriters

20May07

How great is this:

In a workshop-slash-talk I attended recently, two creative writers struggled to categorize us non-creative writers in the room. They kept wanting to say “for writers and ______” but didn’t know what word to use. Scholars, of course, comes to my mind. Or even academics. But instead they referred to us first as Unwriters and then as Professional Readers.

“Professional Readers” I’m OK with, I guess, although I’d like someone to explain that to my dissertation advisor. “She’s not writing a dissertation because she’s a reader, not a writer.” That would be excellent.

“Unwriters” I find funnier but also much more threatening because it couches within it a notion that what we do over here is take things apart that writers have put together. It hides the fact that what we do is actually highly creative, as well. It’s like that frequent attack we get from our freshman writing students when we ask them to analyze something: “So basically you just want me to dissect this?” No. I want you to appreciate it, but to think critically about how and why you do or do not appreciate it. I want you to come up with your own ideas in relation to the ideas in what you’ve read.

Maybe I’m just being sensitive. Maybe what we do really is akin to unwriting. But maybe, instead, what we do is more like cowriting. What we do tends to add to understanding rather than detract. At least that’s what I hope.

But still the whole thing was pretty amusing. : )

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