When Literary Ignorance Surrounds You

Posted: October 10, 2012 in Discussions, Uncategorized

If ignorance is bliss, then why are the smartest people I know the happiest? (Actually, I agree with what that saying actually refers to, but I’m trying to make a different point here.)

Let me explain the situation I was in with my last job.

I worked at a party store (and of course no one expects a genius to work there). We sold your typical beer, liquor, tobacco, food off the shelf, and we cooked food as well, like pizzas, hoagies, etc. It was a decent gig, besides the low pay and the boss’s drunken, unreliable ways. After working there for a while, I began to see a trend. Despite being an avid reader and writer, I’d found myself trapped in a world of illiteracy. Everywhere I looked there were misspellings, improper uses of the apostrophe, and a total disregard for anything knowledgable, scholarly, or literature related.

It seemed one day I looked around and found myself in quite the opposite world from where I’d wanted and planned to be. I felt that I was suffocating in a world of (for lack of better word) “stupidity”. My writing was suffering and I was losing what little handle I’d had on proper grammar and spelling. I thought of my dreams, where I wanted to be in my life, and looked at where I was. That was when I understood that I’d made a wrong turn somewhere I thought, “I don’t want to be stuck here. Hell, I don’t want to waste another minute of my life in this place.”

So I did it. Shortly after this realization I grew a pair and told my boss I was putting in my two weeks. It was an immense relief, not only to be away from that “stupid” place, but to not have to tip-toe around and cater to my drunk boss. Sure, the loss of income sucks, and I’m feeling it, but what I lost money-wise was nothing when compared with what I gained personally and emotionally as well as educationally.

Within a week of quitting my job at the party store, I’d written more than I had in all the time I worked there, and I had enrolled in a free online creative writing course (since I’d missed registration at the local college). As of now, I plan to start classes with the winter semester, so that I can start working on my Bachelor’s in English.

I felt most of all that working at the party store was hindering my ability to remember and properly use grammar, as well as hindering my drive to read and write. This is why I believe that environment and the people you surround yourself with are the people who influence where your life is going. No one I worked with gave a rip about good books, or whether or not the word “audacity” was too pretentious to use in a particular sentence. Sure, people were delighted to find that I was a writer, and they often asked to read my work, but usually the criticism I got back was not in any way constructive. It was more like, “I didn’t like the end. You should have made this happen-” and then they would launch into a whole spiel about how they would have ended the story. You all probably know how infuriating that can be. People were constantly telling me to change my stories to suit them, but if I were to do that, they would no longer be “My Stories”, they would be mine and the drunk old guy that comes into the store. There were so many times that I just wanted to scream that if they wanted a story to end a certain way, they should pick up a pen and try writing it their own damn selves. I found that people who don’t quite understand literature, don’t know how to critique and criticize a story. They don’t look at grammar (since they have little understanding of it), or how the story flows, or how strong a character is, or if the foreshadowing works, or how well the setting fits, they simply look at the story line and how neatly it’s packaged.

My point here being that if you want to excel in writing, you have to be around people and in an environment that will nurture that desire. If you want to be a writer, you really should not be wasting your time in a party store where people have little to no understanding of literature. And of course, I didn’t start working there to better my writing, I did it for the pay, but I’d found that over time it was getting in the way of my reaching for my dream. I came to feel that if I didn’t get out soon, I might end up trapped in a dead-end job that did not push me to be the best I could be.

So if you’re having a hard time getting into your writing, or writing at all, take a look around. You may find that some of the problems don’t lie within you, but instead in your surroundings. Not that I’m saying you should dump every thing and every one that doesn’t better your writing (for example my husband never reads books and rarely reads my work, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to toss him to the curb). The answer to your problem could be as simple as creating your own work space to escape to. My answer was to quit that dead-end job, and in the end, I feel that I’ve made the right decision.

Oh, and one more thing. For your reading pleasure, here is the angry manifesto I launched into the day of my realization at work. It is quite long though, just warning you. Enjoy. =]

I groan aloud with trepidation and utter and complete loathing. This place, oh this fucking place! It’s inescapable. Everywhere I look I see stupidity, idiocy, and grammatically incorrect writing. Apostrophes between the words “I” and “am”, improper uses of punctuation everywhere! AND THE SPELLING! Oh that’s the worst. “Knifes” instead of “knives”, and “utinsils” instead of “utensils”, and the worst part about it: IT’S EVERYWHERE! On signs posted all over the walls, hell, even written on the walls themselves. I fear if I stay much longer, I will sink into the abyss of grammatical ignorance and punctuation squalor. Take me away from this wretched place and teach me right! I want-no, need and desperately require something more put into the words I read. This place is a pit of literary despair and absence. I feel it weighing heavily on my writer’s heart. There is nothing here for me besides the regular paychecks that come from stagnant monotony. And oh the hatred, the self loathing I feel for putting up with it, it is the mental equivalent of corrosive acid, slowly eating away, melting my brain until it’s no more than a repulsive puddle of goo. Now, you may say this is about my anger towards my employment, but it only is on the surface. This is about the utterly stagnant state of my life and mind brought upon by this accursed place. It is the lack of knowledge, scholarly knowledge, that draws my anger as a pin-prick draws blood. It is the utter lack of respect for myself and my work. And yes, ignorance is bliss, but not when it surrounds you, envelopes you, chokes you like stagnant water, the water of ignorance, being forced into one’s mouth, nose, eyes, and ears even. It’s sickening and terrifying and though I struggle, I cannot draw a breath, no matter how my lungs scream for literary righteousness. It wraps its arms around me like a lover in a dream, but it cannot pull me under. I fight it, I hold out hope that one day I can break free from these chains of degradation. Oh the constant abhorrence I feel each time I look upon the pallid and monstrous faces of the masters of my degradation. They shun me and spit upon me with their ignorance, making me retreat to a place inside, and the worst is they do it unknowingly, blatantly ignorant to their own ignorance, and I can bear little more. They claim they know me, though most don’t know the first letter of my name, nor the depths of my soul, nor the desires or passions of my writing. They do not see the horrors my mind plays host to, nor do they see themselves for what they really are, all-consuming monsters. And you may think I feel this deep distaste for particular persons, but that is incorrect. I feel this upon seeing the greedy, wasteful, hurtful, shameless, and grotesque ways of humanity. Which is not to say I hate humanity so, I only hate what humanity has made itself; a sick, twisted race, striving only for materialistic self-indulgence and paper-thin desires. I believe that people are not inherently good. Maybe at one point in time we used to be, but all of humanity has fed into this change, this metamorphosis of sorts, only to turn us all into the things of nightmares. I believe that every single person has the capacity for kindness as well as malice. It is only through conditions and learned behavior that we tend to sway one way or another. But all theses problems that plague humankind stem from one place: ignorance. People need to learn, to know, to grow, to educate themselves, if not in a college environment, then at least through the written word. Literature is the backbone of a healthy and good society, one so necessary that without it, said society would crumble and fall to dust. Literature, and I mean good literature, is to human nature what blood is to the body. It keeps us going, keeps us reaching for our goals, and keeps us striving for perfection.

 

And I apologize for how strange this post is, but I stumbled upon the above section in one of my many beloved notebooks and found that I love the way it sounds. I might have been wrong, but I was thinking you all may enjoy reading it too, so I wrote this post to include it, and I hope that along the way I helped someone get out of a writing funk, or at least realize that there is a way out.

Feel free to share any thoughts, and remember (as always) that my advice may not work for you. All I know is what works for me, and I share it with you all in hopes that someone may be able to take something away from this.

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