Anal Retentive or Anal Expulsive: What I Learned in Lit Crit


Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

Scribe Writing/Image via Wikipedia

Did you even know that there were two options, or were you like me and thought there was only anal retentive?

I had no clue that the term anal expulsive even existed until my enlightenment in Lit Crit (Literary Criticism) class many years ago. Now I can assure you that Lit Crit is one snoozer of a class. I just needed to check it off my list to move on my way to graduation. When I heard the professor say “anal expulsive” I snapped out of my slumber.

Anal expulsive? What? He proceeded to explain it meant the opposite of anal retentive. That one I understood–being uptight. However, he applied the terms to writing in a way that made my style crystal clear to me for the first time in my life. It also freed me from thinking maybe there was something wrong with the way I approached some writing.

In writing, the anal retentive person writes, rewrites, rearranges, rewrites, proofs, proofs some more, rewrites, and then begrudgingly hands the paper in.  I can be that way on the proofing, but not for the actual writing.

The anal expulsive writer, on the other hand, just blows the content out and then hands it in, or in the case of blogging, hits the Publish button. Wow. What an epiphany!

Who knew I’d been anal expulsive all those years of writing papers? Well, I knew, but I didn’t know what to call it, and I always felt kinda guilty about it. I mean, I would do the research and all, rearrange the notecards, but when the time came to write, I would write and then be done. When instructors would hand papers back to me to rewrite, I never quite knew what to do. I was done. What was to be redone?

I do understand that rewrites can make papers better, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I felt my writing style was validated by knowing there was an actual term to describe it and that I wasn’t the only person on the planet that wrote that way.

My blogging is much the same way. I started this blog July 31, 2011, and have written every day since. If I were functioning as an anal retentive writer, I would not publish much. As an anal expulsive writer, I can pound out content every day and forgive myself if what you are reading is not the most perfect product.

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6 Responses to Anal Retentive or Anal Expulsive: What I Learned in Lit Crit

  1. notquiteold says:

    i also started the end of July. I think I must be manic-depressive anal retentive-compulsive. Half the time I agonize over every word; half the time I just write. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – with both techniques. I just don’t know….

  2. wordsfallfrommyeyes says:

    Anal Expulsive is my new expression of the week! I have only heard of anal retentive, yes! But I love the expression of the opposite. An enlightening post!

  3. bwinwnbwi says:

    I didn’t know, but now I do! I suspect I fall in the retentive category, but maybe I get there by spewing a bunch of jargon.

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