Someone said to me very recently, “My uncle has feet and he can’t walk.”
There are two things about this comment I would like to discuss. The first is short: everyone has cooler uncles than me. All my uncle ever does is complain about the economy and how he isn’t rich yet. It’s frustrating, to tell you the truth.
The second is the important–and therefore long–part. The notion that people can have feet and not walk is not particularly resonant for its profundity; but rather for its essence, which can be distilled and used as a fill-in-the-blank for practically any shortcoming imaginable. “You have feet and you can’t tap dance” — “she has a mouth and she can’t speak Farsi” — “I have hands and I can’t write worth a damn”. This last example is noteworthy, for it is true that many people have hands and can’t write worth a damn.
Being the resident English Lit nerdfighter in my peer group, I have been asked on several occasions whether I would review academic papers for the less nerdly. In the process of assisting, I have found the authors lacking in anything remotely resembling a rudimentary grasp of the English language.This is not me being an asshole to my friends, which I have been known to be. This is me being honest. Honestly, some people just can’t write.
Kurt Vonnegut talks about this in his book, Palm Sunday. He states that people can be divided into three groups–writers who are born with awesome, writers who aren’t born with awesome but with enough hard work can achieve awesome, and writers who don’t have awesome and have no way of possessing it short of a brain transplant. The more awesome involved, the smaller the group.
I am not saying this is a bad thing, because if we all had hands and could write, who would be there to go easy on us? Writers can’t be trusted with such tasks. They’re jealous and petty and far too good with words for that–they would tear you down if you gave them the chance. I know because I have been torn down before, both politely and impolitely, by myself and by others. Everybody gets torn down once in a while. It’s healthy.
The thing about tearing people down is that they also need to be built back up once in a while. They need someone to ignore how much they suck and tell them they’ll get there eventually, not because they’re going easy on them, but because they have the eyes to overlook the writer’s faults. If you only tell people how much they suck, then they don’t grow. They just keep on sucking. So, thank you, all you non-writers, for having low standards and high hopes. If everyone was as critical as we are we would spend all our time crying in the bathtub, instead of just the half we do already.