Get off your D.U.F.F. and write

In Writing on April 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm

There I was, sitting in my off-campus house, when I noticed  — for the 324th time since becoming a Davidson College student — the arrival of a friendly email from the editor of the student magazine, Libertas. I gave the email a quick scan, having learned what to expect by then (a general plea for article ideas, writers, or just warm bodies to fill out the editorial meeting), and then moved to do what I always did when receiving a Libertas email: delete it before I felt guilty. I was a senior, and had been on the Libertas mailing list since the freshman year activity fair, and yet I’d never even shown up to a meeting, much less actually contributed a piece. But I wasn’t quick enough this time, and before I could delete the damn thing, one of the editor’s postscripts gave me pause (yes, pause):

“If you want off the email list, let me know ASAP before [poop] starts to fly,” he said. “If you want to hang creepily around the fringe and never say anything, then you just sit tight.”

I was struck with a pang of guilt, made all the more pangy because the editor’s emails were filtered into a folder I’d labeled “D.U.F.F.” (Davidson Ultimate Frisbee Folk) — another organization to which I belonged but to which I’d stopped going when I realized they were, you know, actually good at it.

So I thought to myself: Who are we, the fringers of the world?  Sure, it makes sense that if you don’t want to do an activity, you just don’t sign up for it, and even more sense that if you’re into an activity you should sign up for it — but what possesses a person to sign up for something knowing full well they’ll never actually participate?  Do we think that reading weekly emails is almost as good as the real thing?  The editor’s email had sent me into some very serious, introspective, outrospective, and circumspective soul searching. I had to figure out what makes me and others like me tick (or rather, sign up for a good bit of ticking, but then avoid the tick-planning meetings like the plague).

I swiftly came to the conclusion that there are three possible reasons for our particular brand of fence-sitting: First, we’re worried we’re just too cool to interact with other people, and fear that doing so might actually result in a general lowering of self-esteem throughout society; Second, we’re in competitions with our friends to see who can fill their email in-box first (I had already won, actually. Mine filled up thirty minutes after signing up for the DUFF list. Hippies are a loquacious bunch, I guess); or, thirdly – and I suspected this is the real reason in most cases – we’re afraid that we don’t have good enough ideas, or that we don’t write well enough (or perhaps we use too many parentheticals).

The bottom line and my grand conclusion, however, was that none of those excuses gets us off the hook:  Society will survive, we all have gmail now so we can’t fill up our in-boxes, and if you don’t try writing anything then you’ll never get any better at it.  I realized I had set myself back three years and stunted my development as a writer, simply because I was afraid I wasn’t already a good enough writer!

I never did write anything for Libertas. I wish I had (maybe I would have finally kicked my parenthetical habit by now), but the the moral of the story is this: If you’re a would-be writer and still on the fence, then get out there to a meeting (or whatever it is you’ve been avoiding) and see what’s what.

I’d join you, but I’ve already graduated.

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