My Love/Hate with Writing

I found it interesting that in Didion’s piece, “Why I Write”, she discovered her passion for writing by mistake.  Never a confrontational person or one to impose her views upon others, she claims that no matter what, “there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”  She then goes on to discover and describe herself as a “writer”; as a person who uses the act of writing as a means of understanding the world, what she herself is thinking, what she sees and what it all means.

In a way, her reasons for writing are quite similar to mine.  I have found that I do my best learning not through studying, filling out worksheets or doing homework, but rather by writing essays.  I suppose this is the rationale behind the “blue book” exam but aside from that, writing helps me to further understand and grapple with academic material.  Outside of an academic context where I am required to write, however, I do not find writing to be an enjoyable or leisurely activity.  The love-hate relationship that I share with writing stems from the double-edged sword that it possesses for me.  On one hand, I have always been a talented writer who produced works that far exceed those of my classmates and the expectations of my teachers.  At the same time, because of such inherent talent, the perfectionist inside of me slaves over each paper I write so many times that I become sick of reading it and, in turn, become sick of writing.  Of course Orwell, however, would contend that such a bittersweet relationship is a perfect example of the “horrible, exhausting struggle” and ‘pain” that all writers experience—an example of the “demon” that all good writers face in completing a work of writing.

Didion also talks about her great interest in the concept of grammar/word choice and what meanings arise from such textual manipulations of sentences.  She refers to grammar as “puzzle pieces” that, depending on where they are plugged into the sentence, can drastically alter the sentence’s meaning as well as the reader’s perception of the piece.

This concept connects with one of the readings that I have selected as a piece whose style I would like to emanate.  I have long been interested in the writing style of journalists/critics in both the automotive and athletic industries.  I admire their casual, informal style and how they manage to maintain/strike a balance between witty commentary and informational detail.  The piece I chose is an article/review of the 2013 BMW M5 written by Car and Driver magazine’s Aaron Robinson.  I enjoyed reading his article because of the informal tone he uses in describing his experience of driving such a “four door supercar.”  Throughout the article, witty side notes are peppered into each paragraph (“the car runs enough software to land it on an asteroid”, “it is an executive express, a velvet-wrapped hammer, a shark in whale’s clothes.”) in a way that keeps the reader interested and engaged amidst the article’s equal amount of relatively dry, technical specifications and engineering jargon.  In this case, Didion’s concept of word and grammar choice comes into play.

While reading academic works can often times feel like a chore, reading articles like Robinson’s, at least for me, conjures interest and a willingness to learn and read on by living vicariously through his experience with the car.  From Didion’s perspective, such writing helps readers understand what is desirable and admirable in a car while Orwell would admire the article’s overarching objective of persuasion towards favorability of the car.

With all of this said, I do not despise writing as it is difficult to dislike something that you’re very good at.  At the same time, however, the kind of writing that I prefer to both read and write is that of informal opinion, similar to that done by blogger, Andrew Sullivan, more so than that of Orwell or Didion.




3 thoughts to “My Love/Hate with Writing”

  1. I think you speak for a lot of people when you talk about “the perfectionist” part of you. I can’t tell you how many times I have scratched out word after word, sentence after sentence and then eventually just scrapping the whole paragraph and starting over. As much as it pains me to say this, I almost love that aspect of writing. While I am in the midst of hacking up my essay and editing draft after draft, I absolutely hate it. The feeling of accomplishment is unlike any other, sure it would be great to write a perfect essay first time through. It would save time and frustration but in all honesty, writing would become just another daily routine. I think that is what allows the love/hate relationship with writing. Every scratched out word is a sigh of relief and every note in the margins saying “I have no idea what I am trying to say here,” nothing more than a mini-pep talk.
    I can’t say for certain, but I bet that the author burned through a couple adjectives and fiddled with the wording when he wrote:
    “the car runs enough software to land it on an asteroid”, “it is an executive express, a velvet-wrapped hammer, a shark in whale’s clothes.”
    and this part of the essay that probably took a little more effort to craft stuck out to you… so for me it goes to show that that extra step and moment of hair pulling is completely worth it and required in order to create some masterpieces.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. Writing, as I said in class has never been an area of academics that I have excelled in. To some people, writing flows naturally, but in all honesty, it usually takes me anywhere from 1-3 hours to write a single page of writing. I mean, my blog post took me an hour and a half! Although I must admit that my struggles are, more likely than not, due to the lack of practice. I also really identify to your claim that reading (and writing) academic articles often seems like a chore. If my work in a biology laboratory has taught me anything, it would be how to skim, and make sense of extremely dense writing. Although writing is difficult for me, like you said, it is a double edged sword. There is no better place in the world to express your thoughts freely like in an impromptu writing session, something I have found myself doing often recently. As I talk about in my “Why I Write” piece, writing in my journal is the only place in the world that I am not being constantly evaluated. It’s refreshing. Does anyone else find that they turn to writing when they are stressed, or just as an escape from reality?

  3. I can understand the love-hate relationship you talked about in your post. It is somewhat similar to what I mentioned in my blog post about why I normally write. I love writing when I finally do it and I like how it turns out, but it can be torture when I’m mulling over it for hours, not making any sense of what I am putting on paper. Sometimes I even put off thoughts about writing for different classes because I get so stressed about the uncertainty of it. Other times when I know what I want to say it’s a more freeing and exciting feeling more similar to that of the essays we read.
    At the same time, I would have to agree with Erin about how journaling can be this stress free place to put out my thoughts. Its especially helpful to organize things for myself that are happening in my own head.

Leave a Reply