My dog and my husband are outside in front of the first of the autumn fires in the firepit. Though it is finally cool enough to enjoy being outside in the evening, I stayed inside and picked up the computer to try to write. Write. Write. Write.
Each day, my work bag screams at me to grade essays, my sad garden to water, my laundry piles to wash, my living room to paint. My dog needs his long walk or run. My husband and I need our stomachs fed. I need to do all these things but I need to write, too, and I haven't had a chance to since school began.
But what to write about?
Right now, my days are full of Beowulf and Chaucer, George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," and how to get into and stay in college. A current student at a local university came to talk to my writing-for-college class today about what the university looks for in its students and what they need to do to apply. She also said, "$38,000 a year sounds like a lot, but it is a bite out of your parents' bank account that will be worth it in the long run." The kids' jaws dropped. $38,000 isn't a bite out of their parents' bank account; it is the whale that swallowed their bank accounts a few times over. The poor girl didn't know her audience. When she left, the room listened to me in a way they hadn't yet listened this year: we talked about scholarships.
In my senior English class, different students are obsessed with literary archetypes and how they're appearing in the literature we've read so far. They're intrigued by the the brutal goods and evils in early Anglo-Saxon literature and roll their eyes at the courtly love of the Middle Ages. ("What? He loves her and fights for her and believes his love for her makes him a better and braver man, but he never gets to touch her? Dude, that sucks.") A kid with the last name Knight is infatuated with learning about knights. Who would've thunk?
For some kids in AP English Language, reading "Politics and the English Language" is just an academic exercise, something they need to slog through to prove they can read and think at the level I'm expecting them to. For others, every point Orwell reveals hits home: they can see his argument walk across their television screens and wave to large, fanatically partisan audiences; they see his argument in the pretentiously passive and Latinate show-off essays of their peers; they see his argument in their own muddy thoughts and borrowed phrases. And for these students, this essay wakes them up to how much we are our words.
I am my words. I need to write.