*Clever Title*

I would like to preface my first blog post with this: I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.  We’ve been thrown into this blog with what I feel is an “intentional uncertainty.”  All of us are supposed to make the blog what we want it to be.  And that lack of direction seems a bit daunting right now …

I’ll begin by talking about Orwell’s piece.  The thing that resonated the most with me is his quote that talked about the, “…emotional attitude from which [we] will never completely escape.”  When we discussed this in class, I raised my hand and began to fight for the idea that I have indeed “changed”.  I felt very strongly about this at the time; I wanted to believe that I am at a different emotional level than the five-year old version of myself that once enjoyed running around in his underwear while banging a cooking pot with a metal spoon.  I wanted to believe that I have a different emotional attitude than the ignorant middle school version of myself that was convinced his parents didn’t understand him. I really wanted to believe that I have changed.

But I thought about our discussion as my day progressed, and I realized that maybe I haven’t changed.  This is not to say that I enjoy running around the Graduate library half-naked on the weekend.  And I now consider my parents to be two of my very best friends on earth. The “change” that confused me earlier is my maturity, or my ability to know how to behave and think in my ever-changing contexts.  People change contexts as they grow and mature and this is indeed change.  However, I think that my innate emotional core has not changed.

On to Didion.  The thing that stood out the most to me about this piece is her very last sentence.  She writes, “Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.”  What is awesome about this quote is that I couldn’t agree with it more.  Over the past year or so I have finally begun to realize what writing means to me.  I enjoy writing because it allows me to understand the thoughts that are in my head by turning them into a tangible form.  Whenever I don’t know the answer to something, I write.  I make a brainstorm, I make an outline, and then I write so I can attempt to articulate my views/opinions.  Writing is so much more than telling your side of the story.  It’s deciding what your side of the story is.  I think that “Writing,” and “English,” and “literature” should not define writing classes.  Instead, they should be labeled “thinking” classes.

Another thing from Didion that I sincerely enjoyed was when she said, “…when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley I tried, with a kind of hopeless late-adolescent energy, to buy some temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forge for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract.  In short I tried to think.  I failed.”  This is just great.  So often I feel that my thoughts are insane or too abstract to be understood by others (let alone myself).  And Didion describes this “thinking” process so well by talking about a “world of ideas” that presumably only the intellectual elites like Orwell and Didion reside.

This all brings me to the piece of writing I am going to bring in to class (or brought, depending on when you read this).  It’s quite short, actually. Ernest Hemmingway once composed a story in merely six words.  He stated, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  This speaks to the Orwell and Didion pieces because it demonstrates that meaningfulness is not correlated with the “length” of the writing. Hemmingway did it in six words and arguably had just as big of an impact. Orwell and Didion spoke about how writing allows them to figure out and express their ideas (in what seemed to be a long process).  Orwell even stated that, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.  One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”  Obviously Hemmingway did write much longer pieces, but I find the power of these six words to be interesting.

Years ago, though, when I read this Hemmingway piece for the first time, I was angry that it was considered a “short story.”  It’s six words for crying out loud.  But what Hemmingway’s story now represents to me is what good writing has the ability to do.  It can start a conversation, inspire a class, and cause fools like myself to dwell/fixate on the sentences on a page.  Didion would agree with me (and hopefully Orwell, too) as she proclaimed, “The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind.”  It’s as if the picture in my mind is that of the pre-thought, or the innate ideas I inherently hold. My “truth.” And the arrangement of words I choose are those that I hope can articulate this picture.

Hemmingway’s piece of writing is something I want to emulate because of its ability to paint this picture.  It also has the same “intentional uncertainty” that I used to describe this very blog at the beginning of my post.  It is this ambiguity, this deliberate order of words that has such a vague (yet distinct) meaning, that I would like to one day be able to emulate in my writing.


3 thoughts to “*Clever Title*”

  1. Andrew,

    I love how you articulate the connection between thinking and writing. Sometimes it seems like the two processes are so different, but somehow they are always related to each other. In my experience, writing has always helped me to think and reach an overall “thought” or conclusion (similar to you with outlines, brainstorms, etc.). As Didion said, it is possible to fail at “trying to think”; if at first you don’t succeed, WRITE.

    The first thing I thought about when I read your six-word piece by Hemingway was a poem by William Carlos Williams, and I think you’re exactly the kind of person/writer who would enjoy it. It’s called “The Red Wheelbarrow”:

    “so much depends

    a red wheel

    glazed with rain

    beside the white

    Isn’t it amazing how sixteen (or six) words can paint such a beautiful, interesting picture? This poem is so delightfully ambiguous but I can’t help but read it over and over again every time it’s in front of me. I, too, would love to be able to emulate this kind of power in my writing.

    – Allie

  2. This quote from Orwell’s “How I Write” describes how I felt as soon as I read your piece: ” I was carrying out a literary existence of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind”.

    The reason I say this because as I reading your blog post, I was there during all the things that happen to you in class. I remembered that time you were the I-always-change guy and yesterday, when you were the only one in the class that read out loud all the words to your chosen writing piece. It’s kind of cool and deja-vu like to hear about all this from your perspective.

    Although, I know that I’m supposed to be mainly commenting on your interpretation of Orwell and Didion’s essays. I just want to continue the conversation about change and plus, you mentioned that you thought writing class should really be a “thinking” class, so it’s perfectly legitimate for me to dwindle off on this discussion.

    Change is difficult to measure in ourselves because there is no much more to ourselves then our physical actions, words, and maturity. It is our ability to change quickly, adapt, and evolve that defines and makes humans beings unique. Or maybe, it’s all in our minds. Perhaps, the fact that we are changing is not really a big deal. We are supposed to change in whatever what we think that we’re changing now. Personally, I like to think that I have changed. After all, who wouldn’t want to change into a kinder, better, wiser, and maybe more attractive person?

  3. As Regina was saying, I know we’re supposed to be talking about the essays we read for class, but I have to comment on the “change” topic, because it’s something that I think about a lot.

    I find what you say very interesting. I wasn’t in class when we had this discussion, and I wish I could have made it, because I think a lot of college students, and all young adults for that matter, think that they’re changing and becoming new, different people. One of my favorite quotes is from the former strength and conditioning coach for the UM football team, who I met while attending a football camp her several years ago. He said that every day we get a little better or a little worse; we never stay the same. I think that’s true, but I do agree with you (and Orwell) that there is a certain part of us that never escapes.

    The first essay I wrote for a college class was also the best that I’ve written to date, a 12-page dedication to my late grandpa, detailing our relationship and juxtaposing his life with mine. This is the power of writing: by forcing myself to, in essence, analyze my life like this really helped me realize that I am in many ways still the same person I was as a little boy. I look a little different, talk a little different, and act a little different, but I think the same way. I have the same ideals and the same core values and the same heart and brain, which is really all that matters.

    I also love the six word story you shared. Part of my problem as a writer is that I often get too wordy and try to say too much, when Hemingway shows that just as much can be said in only a few simple words.

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