When I was a senior in college, students from one of my courses went out for beers after the final class of the semester. I asked our professor if he wanted to join us. On the walk over to the bar, he said to me, “By the way, you did a great job on last week’s essay exam.” He had yet to return our exams, but apparently he’d already read them. 

I replied, “You must have my test mixed up with someone else’s. I didn’t even understand the second question.”  

“No,” he said. “I have it right. You write well, so you have a B grade going for you before you even get around to saying anything.” 

My professor’s simple statement was a small revelation to me. As a teenager, I’d valued good writing. As a college student, I’d come to realize that I was a better than average writer. Until then, however, I hadn’t realized the extent that decent writing had been getting me through college. 

Kurt Vonnegut once said that he’d never met a writer who wouldn’t rather be playing music, and I get it. I sometimes think that my writing is a default form of artistic expression. I took a few art courses in college and was not very good. I played camp songs on guitar, but was no musician. I watched my dad express himself in the wood shop, and the few times he tried to involve me were frustrating for both of us. 

So I write. I will spend the next two days making this blog as succinct and as clear as my talents will allow, even though I know almost no one will read it. I am pleased to have a couple of friends who sometimes read my blogs, but that’s not why I write them. At one time I wrote to get through college. Later I wrote as part of my job as an academic, and even then I sometimes got published more for the quality of the prose than for the depth of my ideas. Now, because I can’t draw, can’t play music, can’t work in wood, writing is what I do. 

Steven Simpson