Last year the nation’s English teachers staged a conspiracy to get people everywhere to write about writing. As part of the annual National Day on Writing on October 20th, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), asked folks to answer, “Why I Write” by blogging and tweeting their responses. Sneaky! Kids, blogging about “why you write” looks suspiciously like writing. The conspiracy worked. Students, celebrities, journalists, and writers of all levels and experiences responded so enthusiastically that #whyiwrite was, according to the New York Times, a Twitter trending topic “for a brief moment.” Our collective English and Writing teacher hearts (briefly) melted.
I try the same trick on my students each year at the end of the freshmen university writing course I teach. I ask students to reflect on their growth as writers and the students, usually mindful of their grades, respond with tales of their transformation. They have changed – for the duration of the essay, at least – and after a semester of mandatory drafts, they promise to forego all-nighters and embrace “writing as a process.” We read why Joan Didion writes, which is “to entirely find out what I’m thinking” and we write about why George Orwell wrote “Why I Write” and we analyze this lovely quote from bell hooks: “As a writer, I seek that moment of ecstasy when I am dancing with words, moving in a circle of love so complete that like the mystical dervish who dances to be one with the Divine, I move toward the inifinte.” Oh, Ms. hooks, I want to agree but my writing process is closer to a descent through the circles of hell. And after a semester cloaked in mystery, and thirteen weeks of telling students to turn off the paralyzing self-editor and to just write, I reveal myself as the proverbial cobbler with a shoeless, half-finished (or half-started?) book. (Permission, please, to mix metaphors.)
Can we talk about Why We Don’t Write? Or what we don’t talk about when we talk about writing? Like, that it’s really hard? We here at the New York Writers Coalition declare June 11th the National Day of Writing about Not Writing, or “Why I Don’t Write.” Let’s take a day to enter our excuses/reasons into the public record. A day to share our collective shame. To participate, you can, ahem, write, blog, tweet, Facebook, infograph or Instagram your reason(s). By the end of June 11th, maybe you’ll feel better about your own personal brand of procrastination or you’ll have a whole new list of time-suck ideas.
Once you purge yourself of excuses, join us at the 7th Annual NYWC Write-a-Thon on June 24th, where we’ll give you plenty of reasons to write. Like time, space, and food.
Help us spread the word! Starting June 11th, be sure to add #whyidontwrite to the end of your messages. We’ll feature a “best of” the following week and we might even have a prize for the most original excuse.
To participate in the NYWC Why I Don’t Write Challenge on Monday, June 11th: