My class is writing creative nonfiction essays that involve querying ideas. I’ve told them they are allowed to swear and some of them take me seriously. I guest-workshopped a writing workshop a few years ago at my institution and I learned that creative writing kids, these days, swear a lot.
“Not earned?” one kid asked as he read my comments. I have a pretty good memory for writing, unlike my memory for more practical things like where I put my keys or what I did yesterday. So I knew what he was talking about. He had thrown in what seemed to me as a gratuitous “fuck” in the middle of a paragraph.
“Unearned.” I confirmed.
And so I told him that his first use of the word bullshit in the first paragraph made sense, but the “fuck” on page two came out of nowhere.
“But I was trying to portray my own irritation with the subject. I used a lot of exclamation points, I never do that.”
“You need to build up to it more, then. I didn’t get it.” And this lead to a wider class conversation about swearing. I told them that I could say, “I was so fucking bored” and the modifier “fuck” becomes generic. But if I said, “I was so bored that I wanted to grade papers and do my taxes at the same time” that tells you a lot more about me and/or the depths of my boredom.
[Management: The difference between Indy Clause and her real-life persona become quite clear here. Indy doesn’t fucking care how generic the word “fuck” is, she’s gonna use it anyway.]
I swear in class (a little) because I have had a potty mouth since a shockingly young age. But I also swear in class to build rapport with the students. I swear to seem less daunting. I want them to be able to say what they want to. Or at least that is the spin I’m putting on it today.
Fess up: Are you sweary? What’s up with writers and swearing?