We’re constantly in communication. Sure, it’s a cliché that we live in a fast-paced world where instant communication is necessary, but that doesn’t take away from its truth: we love to communicate with each other. Really, we always have had a desire to communicate, but have lacked the tools to do so constantly. Today, twitter, facebook, and even online message boards give us the instant communication generations before us never had (I actually just tweeted mid-paper). We are constantly criticized for lacking patience, or proving deficient in personal interactions, but maybe we just love to write. Communication through writing used to be reserved only for well thought-out research papers. Now, writing is everywhere.
In Andrew Sullivan’s blog post “Why I Blog”, he describes why blogs have become so popular. They offer a unique opportunity to see the writer in their raw form, without much revision. Blog posts have the ability to encapsulate exactly what the writer was thinking at the moment they posted their material, and give us a way of seeing how ideas may have developed or been destroyed. This raw form of communication, while dangerous, is what makes blogs so worthwhile. Readers can see the author in their most vulnerable form, and then interact with the author through a comment section. It’s a conversation, only through writing.
Even before the internet (apparently the internet hasn’t ALWAYS existed—who knew?), writing was a major form of communication. George Orwell discusses this in his piece “Why I Write,” as he explains that two reasons for writing are “historical impulse” and “political purpose.” He knew why people write: to feel relevant; to feel like they can make people see the world exactly as they see it. Writers want to influence others through their words. Orwell had to take time to write out an elaborate essay, then get it published. Sullivan only has to hit “submit” on a website. Yet both are communicating through writing.
Still, as Orwell later points out, writing is not all about influencing others. Sometimes writing is entirely introspective. As we see through Joan Didion’s aptly titled “How I Write” essay, writing can serve the purpose of self-communication. All of her writing begins with two pictures that “tell [her]” what to write. She sees the world differently than others do, and can only explain it through writing. To outsiders, it may seem as if she is writing to make some kind of commentary, or to impress readers. Really, she is writing to understand herself.
Whether I am writing to understand myself, or writing for others, this desire for communication is mostly the reason I write. I desire for others to hear me; I want them to understand my thoughts and my feelings; I want them to communicate with me. Still, I sometimes struggle to effectively communicate with my audience. They’re there, but it’s tough to figure out exactly what to say to impress them.
Michael Patrick Welch embodies the type of writing I desire. His essay, “As if Hell Were a Real Place” is set up as a conversation with the reader, and he is constantly vulnerable and open to different experiences. He opens up his life for the reader, and through this, is able to influence the reader’s own opinions. Throughout the essay, I felt as if he is one of my good friends, sitting down and reciting a story about his unfortunate life. I keep wanting to hear more; I wanted to know exactly how his life turns out. This is the kind of communication I desire to find through writing.