“You can make anything by writing,” read the tweet. I can tell you the exact words because I retweeted it, permanently storing it in my Twitter archive. The C.S. Lewis quote is now half of a scroll down on my Twitter profile, standing out from the others as a Retweet with it’s top right corner marked green. “You can make anything by writing.” It’s one of those inherently quotable sentences. A statement so profound, it’s easy to believe without a second thought. The type of quote that’s just asking to be shared.
But as my finger hovered over the retweet option and I finished reading the quote a second time, I caught myself. Didn’t all of those undergrad English classes teach me to not use generalizations as arguments? I obviously couldn’t make anything by writing, right? Or could I?
Instead of sharing the quote, I clicked to view other users’ replies to the quote. I wanted to see how many people had fallen to sharing the seductive quote. The second reply was a retweet with a personal message inserted: “You can BREAK anything by writing.” My pessimistic tendencies led me to think that generalization could be true. You can tear things apart with writing. A writer can convince himself to believe lies by putting them into writing. Doubts surface in the mind, and by writing them down, both writer and reader begin to believe them. Truthful thoughts are forgotten, broken by the accumulation of ideas inside our minds.
But the breaking doesn’t always have to happen to truthful thoughts. Writing can use truth to break down lies. Truth occasionally surfaces, and by putting it into words, we start to believe it against lies. As lies fall apart in the mind, truth is made. So Lewis was right. Both truth and lie could be created by writing. At that moment, I hit Retweet.
But how can writing be more powerful than truth? How can it break down truth simply by putting lies into words?
Is the statement a warning, rather than the encouragement for overwhelmed writers I first assumed it to be?
From my brief introduction to the theory in college, I know that deconstruction breaks down ideas to find meaning. In fact, the reply to Lewis’ statement exemplifies a deconstruction technique — presenting an opposing idea as a means of understanding. Lewis’ and the retweeter’s statements, while opposites, originate from the belief that writing creates meaning, either by affirming or denying an idea.
There is no logical correlation between putting a thought into writing and the thought coming into existence. I could write that I love vegetables. People would know it because they read it. But if I hadn’t written the idea, it would not have existed to the readers. The illogical part comes when readers interpret reality based on writing. Something that is written, a composed and concrete thought, is assumed to be true. I actually hate vegetables, yet, for readers, I created the idea that I love vegetables. By writing it.
So, while writing does not own this power, people give it the influence to make or break ideas. Readers don’t have to believe writing as truth, but many do. Therefore, writers must be cautious with the illogical power of writing.
In a recent New York Times Opinionator post, Verlyn Klinkenborg labels most of our written sentences as “crippling inertia” because of the permanence we grant to anything written. Writers find it difficult to detach themselves from something they wrote, and unless they know otherwise, readers have few reasons to not believe what’s put into writing.
In attempt to promote education and truth, writers should only write what they know to be true. And they should write it in an accurate, effective way for their audiences. I can make anything by writing, C.S. Lewis. But I don’t want to make anything. I want to make truth. Writing so others understand what I know to be true can make truth through the inherent and illogical power of writing.
Fernandez, Rica G. (ricagfernandez). “You can BREAK anything by writing. #RMFernandez RT @CSLewisDaily: You can make anything by writing. #CSLewis” 5 Dec. 2012, 4:43 a.m. Tweet.
Kline, Mike “Dakinewavamon.” Writing and Driving. Flickr. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Where Do Sentences Come From?” The New York Times Opinionator. The New York Times Co., 13 Aug., 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2012.
Lewis, C.S. (cslewisdaily). “You can make anything by writing. #CSLewis.” 5 Dec. 2012, 4:40 a.m. Tweet.