I’m right there with you, sister. Ms. Didion had it right. Not everyone sits down with the intent to “create a work of art,” as Orwell put it, or inject some sort of metaphoric code to be cracked. These notions struck a chord, because I prefer reading and writing in a way that is more direct and less wrapped up in creating an intellectual persona.
I used to write to tell stories. My first story ever was about a dog with a heart shaped face named Jenny. My “book” is still in the basement of my house if anyone is up for a compelling read. I think part of the reason I used to write was because I was good at it, and in turn, got good feedback. Who doesn’t like receiving praise?
Post-elementary school, I wrote mostly because the state of Connecticut said I had to. I wrote because there were certain requirements in order to move on to the next grade. I wrote because the College board told me I needed to if I wanted to pass the S.A.T. I wrote because the University of Michigan demanded to know my thoughts on diversity before they would consider me for admission. Granted, these tasks weren’t all negative. The Connecticut Mastery Tests had us writing stories based on a prompt, and I secretly loved these exercises, though I would never admit to being uncool enough to actually enjoy anything school related.
I loved the position papers that were required to pass eighth and eleventh grade. Joan Didion noted that writing is a way of telling people what you think and why that thought is right. Maybe that’s why I liked writing these argumentative papers on positions that I thought (and still do think) are indisputable. Yes, pre-natal drug use is child abuse, and no, abstinence only sex education does not work. I have the statistics and conviction to prove it.
I began to enjoy writing more once I entered college and got to pick my classes, who’s topics I found much more interesting. I’ve come to enjoy writing again provided the topic is of some interest or if I can write for myself.
Throughout all of these experiences, I can say with conviction that I always wrote because writing is essential. My parents raised me to believe that writing was one of the most important skills a person could have in any field, and both happen to be excellent writers. That is why I first decided to apply for the writing minor. Writing matters.
Though I never considered myself a writer, and still don’t, I felt a surprising connection to both Didion and Orwell’s pieces. Part of why I enjoy writing position papers is my “desire to push the world in a certain direction” (Orwell). Like Joan Didion, I often write “to find out what I’m thinking.” As a psychology major and aspiring psychologist, you’d think that I would be good at sorting out my own thoughts. I’m great at reading into other people’s, but I like to think of my mind as a filing cabinet with papers coming out of it every which way. I need to get my thoughts out on paper or even just by speaking them to actually sort through things. As I’m writing this I know I’ll need to go back and delete things because this blog post in its infancy is just me rambling.
The reason I write, aside from enjoying it, I have decided, is two fold. First, because it is a way for me to organize and figure out my thoughts, and second, because I plan on doing research and discovering things that I think will be important to share with the world. I plan on being a researcher and clinician. I want my research to change how the world looks at psychology. Is there some of the egoism Orwell mentioned? Yes. Partly in the notion that people will actually want to read my research, and also, to be honest, I like the idea that my less formal writing might entertain someone, and even provide a few laughs.
I still do not feel as if these reasons are concrete and I do not think they are absolute. I doubt I’ll ever be able to say “this is why I write, plain and simple,” but that’s okay with me. I think the act of writing is such a critical tool for self reflection, that the reason is less important than the process. Seven hundred forty five words later, I think I have a clearer picture of who I am as a writer than I have before.