We need young wordslingers

Thu Mar 27, 2014

I’m wont to pontificate about the illiteracy of Generation Y (or whatever we’re calling teenagers these days) as much as the next grizzled intellectual. But what purpose does that serve really, except to betray the self-righteous that comes with age?

Yes, it’s true that young people are no longer flocking to the library for their entertainment. Nor are they hunkering down in the depths of the night to scribble feverish midnight confessions in their journals.

When personal blogging declines as Instagram and Snapchat ascends, it may be all too easy to conclude that our youth feel more comfortable speaking a cryptic visual language. Yet, I won’t deny that a well-chosen GIF can speak volumes in a comment thread even as I stick to my grammar guns like a seasoned wordslinger who faces the desert of a waning zeitgeist jaded and alone.

Our kids are creatures of much enthusiasm and wit with an acerbic insight into the issues that affect us all, but I want to hear their voices more clearly. I also want them to enjoy reading and writing as much as I do. So, I will endlessly proselytize the benefits of writing thoughtfully and deliberately to any of our youth who will listen. But I want to work on being encouraging, instead of descending into the pedagogical prattling of a writing instructor.

To a young person, I will say this: don’t be scared to write. You may think your writing is odiferous at first, and it well might be, but so what? Haters are gonna hate, yo. It will get better. To improve, read for pleasure and find joy in the rhythm and cadence of your language. Soon, you will expel words effortlessly, like breath from your lungs. What was excruciating and torturous at first will become a time of reflection and quiet that you will seek out. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we all need to slow down and ponder, meditate, and tinker - words can be playful or serious, but they come from your soul.

When you’ve been writing for a while, you’ll look back and laugh at your early works. You’ll meet the young person you once were - a bittersweet re-discovery of a forgotten time. You’ll have a unique third-person view of your own progression to maturity and sophistication. Your writings become the story of your life. The older you get, the more you’ll congratulate yourself on your accumulated knowledge. But you may be surprised to discover that your young self was an expert on topics you are no longer able to write about. Topics such as love, innocence, and beauty.

Write about these things so that they are never lost. Write about these things so that an old man can remember what it was like to be young…

Just for the record, I am not an old man (but I do have a flair for melodrama). Thanks for reading.



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