Call Me Old-Fashioned

In the opening paragraph of his essay, Orwell boldly asserted that “from a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, [he] knew that when [he] grew up [he] should be a writer.” This assertion immediately grabbed my attention, as it seems unlikely that a child of such a young age would know what he/she wanted to become. However as I gave more and more thought to this statement, I realized that I, myself, have wanted to be a surgeon since the tender age of nine. Although Orwell discovered his true calling three or four long years before I was able to, we both discovered our passions early on in life. This realization led me to believe that I would agree with Orwell on a number of different stylistic levels. I was right.

In terms of the ever-so-broad question, “Why I Write”, I must say that my writing style most closely identifies with Orwell’s love of language, his “joy of mere words” and his ability to rearrange words on a page in such an artistic manner. I enjoy manipulating words in a way that makes a reader think. Writing, to me, is not simply words on a page, but rather a canvas on which I can paint a picture much larger than words. How? Symbolism. Allusions. Descriptions. Metaphors. The possibilities are endless. There is nothing I hate more than reading a piece of writing that is simply a blank canvas with a few 12pt font, times new roman words spattered upon it, jumbled around to form a couple of sentences. Boring. Anyone could do that. Literally anyone. According to the infinite monkey theorem, given enough time, a monkey typing at random could produce perfect copies of Shakespeare’s plays. Google it. What makes a piece of writing a piece of art is the author’s ability to consume readers by painting a picture so vivid that it feels as though they are a part of the story, which is how I felt as I read Jeffery Eugenides’ novel “Middlesex”.

While reading the novel, I was constantly engaged intellectually and artistically by being thrown around from heavy topic to heavy topic. How do you characterize a book that presents themes of racial changes in the 1960’s, incest, gender identity, immigration, striving for the American Dream, and sexual promiscuity? The answer is: you can’t. Eugenides excels at drawing his readers into an inescapable, controversial world riddled by allusions to Detroit in the 1960’s. Although I may be biased due to growing up near Detroit, I believe that Eugenides not only produced a best-selling novel, but he also produced a work of art; a 3 dimensional canvas lathered with anI t indescribable amount of colors and sparkles (not that I care for sparkles all that much…). Regardless of my personal opinion of the novel, Eugenides clearly shares the same passion for words that both Orwell and I do. He expresses his love of language, and his ability to manipulate words in a manner that both stimulates and includes the reader, a feat that I find very challenging.

That being said, I have a small issue with the article written by Sullivan. Initially, I thought that Sullivan’s article was the most relevant to me, and due to the cultural changes over the last fifty to sixty years, it is probably the most accurate descriptor of my daily life. However in his essay, the sentence “…the deadline is always now” struck me as an unfortunate characteristic of our generation. Why must everything be now? Impatience is, without a doubt, on the rise in our culture and I believe that it has negatively affected the level of creativity, and effort put forth in today’s literature. We all remember reading authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemmingway, and Mark Twain…but which authors will future generations remember about us? Stephanie Meyer? I sincerely hope not (sorry Twilight fans). I have never understood why society has to move at such a rapid pace, but it is unacceptable to assume that the creative process of writing ought to move as quickly. Writing, as previously mentioned, is a process. So, next time you’re writing an essay at 1:30am hyped up on red bull just trying to squeeze out 500 more words, just take a breather. Writing is an art, not a race.

3 thoughts to “Call Me Old-Fashioned”

  1. Really loved how you challenged the deadline of “now.” I think you’re dead-on about how our society and internet culture has to move at such a fast pace. I completely agree that the creative process of writing should not be hindered because of time. Even though our society today is so heavily based on the internet via blogs, e-mail, social networking, etc, why must that automatically make our writing become short-hand, robotic and mundane? Granted some of those late night papers do need to just be finished and done with, but why not relax and take the extra time to write a well crafted e-mail or perhaps sit-back on reflect on a topic before instantly tapping away at the keyboard.

    About authors from our generation… sometimes I worry that i spend so much time reading authors from the past and class-related texts that I don’t get around to reading anything written in the past decade, let alone year. Besides J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer I am having some trouble finding real prominent authors off the top of my head. Am I alone in this thought?

  2. Erin,

    I really love how you related art to writing. It’s so important to weave together our creative thoughts and ideas on paper when we write. I think it is really evident when an author does that (Unfortunately, I agree with you that Stephanie Meyer doesn’t really do that for our generation). Whenever I am writing something I feel the same way as when I’m drawing or cooking or doing something creative. I want to put things together in just the right way – something unique and inventive, but also thought provoking. I think you have hit this idea dead on.

    In response to the ideas about contemporary writing, I know that there is so much out there that I haven’t even explored to really know how to characterize our generation. When I think about the writing done in online forms that is quickly published and evolving before our eyes, I think of how much our generation is attracted to things like that. It makes sense that blogs and short snipets of writing our popular. I think the same is true with Stephanie Meyer books. I’ve heard the argument that books like these are at least getting young people to read again, but is that what we want young people reading – things that satisfy our need for instant, easily-read information found in many blogs and poorly written fiction books?

    – Eva

  3. Erin,

    I completely agree with you when you say that writing is not a race but, rather, a process. In the instant-gratification-fueled world that is the present, we try to look past the hardships that authors/writers face, ignore the struggle and time they spent producing their works, and look straight to their final product—what benefits the reader. Unfortunately, writing (at least good, quality writing) cannot be produced on an assembly line model or mass-produced to serve/please the general population. On the contrary, writing is a seemingly torturous, labor-intensive, perfectionist-oriented battlefield of one’s personality projected onto paper, of grammatical manipulation and sheer originality.

    It is virtually impossible to produce any sort of quality writing, be it an essay, a novel or something as simple as a Facebook post, without invoking thought, revision and/or rewriting. Nobody’s first draft is a flawless masterpiece. Novels aren’t written over night. Writing is a form of art that requires copious amounts of time and above anything, practice.

Leave a Reply