In class today, my professor quoted William Carlos Williams, who writes in Spring and All, “If I could say what is in my mind in Sanscrit or even Latin I would do so. But I cannot. I speak for the integrity of the soul and the greatness of life’s inanity; the formality of its boredom; the orthodoxy of its stupidity. Kill! kill! let there be fresh meat…”
Writing in direct critique of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land and Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Williams hits upon an oft-quoted piece of writing advice: write what you know. Fancy, misused words or half-formulated classical allusions never impress the reader. The conventions of academic writing grow stale and overwrought in the absence of fresh points of view. Although we address these ideas often in the Writing Center, Williams’s hilarious turn of phrase stayed with me. For those of us who have ever tried to write like Williams (or play guitar like Johnny Cash) it is reassuring to imagine their styles as nothing more than an absence of something else.
Let the parts of a paper a student most wishes to change represent her own contribution of “fresh meat” to discourse.