My life has been a series of questions lately: “Where are you applying for college?” “What do you want to study?” “What could you possibly do with a degree like that?”

My answers tend to be a series of hesitant pauses and repetitions of “I don’t know” and nervous laughter. As a result, I’ve started asking myself the same questions: “Is this what you want?” “Would you like to be a writer?” “What is it you enjoy about English anyway?”

I continually simplify the questions, and I continually cannot find the answers.

Earlier today, I was doing my homework for my high school literature class. One of our assignments was to watch an interview between Oprah and Cormac McCarthy, the author of "The Road and All the Pretty Horses." We read that book over the summer for our AP Literature class. I remember being so startled when I opened the novel. There was not a single comma, quotation mark or chapter break in sight. McCarthy simply didn’t include what he felt to be excessive and superfluous punctuation. He felt that “over-punctuation” interrupted the flow of the work and made it more difficult to read. McCarthy even ventured so far as to say, “If you write properly, you don’t have to punctuate.”

As some type of ex-middle school grammar fanatic, I would have assumed McCarthy’s style and writing ideals would be extremely difficult to grasp. Before I’d read "The Road and All the Pretty Horses", I probably would’ve laughed and called McCarthy crazy. I suppose the cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover” truly comes into play here. I remember texting my friends after a first glance at the novel about how conflicted I felt; I love stylistic writing, but I still care deeply about grammatical structure. As I continued to read, I found myself becoming awestruck. The punctuation — or lack thereof — became necessary to me as a reader, and it felt as if it were a part of the story. It characterized the book, the protagonist and the journey. The style was new to me. It was brilliant.

Writers like Cormac McCarthy, E.E. Cummings and Markus Zusak challenge the parameters of English, take the language back to its roots, and make us ponder what it means to write. Of course, this list of authors is nowhere near all-inclusive, as I have so much left to read in this world. People like them push the boundaries, take their works to the next level, turn literature — what many throw away as simply another subject to pass in school — into art. Pictures are painted, lives are carved, and people are immortalized without a single brushstroke. Words are the medium with which writers sculpt.

The next time an adult asks me where I’m going to college, my answer will still likely be that I’m not yet sure. I know these questions about my plans will come up again and again, and I will probably respond with a shrug and say, “I was thinking of pursuing a career in English.”

When that same person inevitably, with a downward pull of their lips and the “that doesn’t make any money” look in their eye, blurts out a curt “why?” I will have an answer: Sometimes I read a book, and it evokes such an emotional response that I’m brought to tears. Other times I am so inspired to write that the keys cannot move fast enough to keep up with my stream of thought. It is in those moments — a sky cascading with vibrant pink and blinding orange, a forest engulfed by a rushing river like the soft cry before the flood, a breeze so gentle it’s a whisper within your heart — that landscapes encompass the mind and life rushes forth behind our eyes.

Though I have never been able to paint to save my life or draw much more than a stick figure, I have always felt some strange desire to be an artist. I think maybe I still can be. My canvas, comprised of paper, calls to me, inspiration finds me as a vivid scene roars to life like a calming storm in my thoughts, I search for my pencil (my paintbrush of choice) hidden beneath the dust of memory, and I write.


does a writer always need something to write about?

or can he write anything he pleases

and will it to sound beautiful?


“today I went to Church.

a child talked throughout the service.

I looked at my hands.”


there is no grace in this.


what gives the singer the ability to hum a tune she doesn't know?

the sound escapes her lips,

the beauty enters my heart.


how does she turn the world into a song?


words are cheap.

I have thousands.

and I’ve paid for none.


but I can shape them.

and they can shape me.

as the singer takes the song from the wreckage,

I take the words from the rubble.


I will construct a house,

and she will burn the earth.

and neither of us will touch a damn thing.

-maggie connolly