WRITING: THE WA EXPERIENCE
by Sean Pierson ’16 and Varun Nair ’16
At Worcester Academy, students frequently collaborate in their work. The following is collaboration by two WA students who pooled their talents and co-authored a piece, alternating writing one paragraph after another to complete the article.
If you are to write an essay, sestina, short story, or – dare I say – DBQ (document based question), commit; commit to your argument with tranquil fervor; commit to those six words that you have chosen to end each line with in that fateful first stanza; commit to the world you have created; and of course, commit to brevity. This is advice. This is also the alumni magazine and you likely do not need my advice, or at least, have no use for advice on the topic of DBQs (the sestina advice on the other hand, quite useful). However, this is advice I feel compelled to share as I reflect on Worcester Academy and the writing it has produced.
After you learn this, something else comes next. The time when you realize “Hey, I’m actually somewhat decently good at this. I should maybe do this some more.” And it is demonstrably not this feeling if it is simply the comments and grade you received that prompt this epiphany. This consciousness rears its head, first unrecognized, but more discernible once one spends more time than strictly necessary simply because it’s just not ready. This is when that point can be perceived, because while it is certainly not the only thing required, it is quintessential to all good writers: passion. This passion takes us down many roads, most commonly the sleepless one of strained eyes and coffee-ringed coffee tables.
Tables, yes, tables, there is a symbolism in that. A balance. And, too, tables here are an unexpected virtue. Just as you began to consider these roads, the weather-beaten channels of passion we begin to dip our toes into at WA, it is the tables that prove vital to the establishment of penned consonance and calculated dissonance. For, while adventure and imagination are paramount, you can only stretch strained eyes and comprehend the swirling stains, embark on these adventures and decipher that labyrinthine imagination, after you have the table, the base, on which lies a copy of Hamlet or The God of Small Things or Invisible Cities accompanied by a pad and pen, stable against the refectory.
All of these texts and more provide a backdrop to base everything on. Without the solid foundation built through careful reading and analysis of literature, both high and common, the skills necessary to be a successful English student cannot be honed. You must learn the careful intuition that makes it an art even in a seemingly unimaginative unraveling of another’s work. Worcester Academy’s English Department successfully unravels a rope, a rope that has been wound tightly through your last days of eighth grade to follow a rigid pattern of writing. A framework impossible in institution, for writing must form like a liquid to the shape dictated by the purpose, and nothing more.
“Logical forms accrue to subject-matter when the latter is subjected to controlled inquiry.” This is a quote from John Dewey and I believe it holds true. Though tedious, proving the minutiae to the grand in every subject, explaining and questioning things merely defined as “true,” matures our latent logical capabilities. It turns us into critics, though productive critics. I’ve learnt to not just label everything, not just throw words loosely outlining a theme, but to use the boons of controlled inquiry to validate my statements. And yet, this logical development is not the sole prize of education. Worcester Academy is distinctly memorable because the people here note this. As pure critics, as solely pragmatists, our writing would be coarse, hardened by a lack of air and life, yet it remains fluid. It seeps and boils and it does this because, here, there is a certain lack of boundaries. And there is a sense of possibility surrounding the original and creative.