The Beginning

I’m not a bozo. Assuming from the identical titles, it’s obvious that I’m supposed to read the two papers, compare them, discuss them, and then, have answer to questions like what motivates writers, why writers like to write, what’s it’s like to be a writer—no problem.

With skepticism about the impact of this assignment on my writing skills, I lay back on my bed with the papers spread out along the covers and forced my eyes to stare at the words of George Orwell’s “Why I Write”. And instantly I was pulled in.

From the first line, I sensed that I was about to read something good, maybe even profound: “From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer”.

As a college student in middle of trying to plan my future, I am intrigued by this humble, declaration of confidence. What kind of child already knew what he wanted to do with his life? I was certainly jealous.

Following that sentence, Orwell states that he initially “tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books”. At this point, I could not have felt more attune and interested in a class assignment because I realized to him, writing became something more than an action or career. He saw every purpose of writing as a legitimate goal and Orwell understood very clearly that, for him, his life goals were to achieve those goals.

Compared to Orwell, Didion was more upbeat and less somber in her essay about her relation to writing. She went straight to the facts about how her way of thinking leads her to “[begin] each of [her] novels, with no notion of ‘character’ or ‘plot’ or even ‘incident’”. I realized after reading her explanation and analysis that writing is a very goal-driven act. Whether its purpose is to act as a form of self-expression or art or to address or understand an issue, writing is very personal and every aspect of every literature has someone’s life imbedded within it.

Thus, today, I have selected two piece of writing that I would like to emulate or consider both excellently written and artistically engaging. John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” is one of my all time favorite novels. Having attended a private, boarding school in high school, this coming-of-age novel is a topic of interest to me and I am always looking for literature that captures the same feelings and values that I experience growing up. Furthermore, I consider this book excellently written because every sentence and description seems intentional and clear. Like him, I want to be able to write clearly yet express beautifully. I also want to be able to be able to convey to readers emotions and feelings through words. In other words, I want to be an excellent story-teller, which brings me to the next piece of writing that I would like to emulate. Though it is somewhat unconventional, I would like to emulate the writings of country-pop singer Taylor Swift. As a devoted fan, I believe she does an excellent job telling stories despite the fact that many of the things she described are only exclusively experienced by her.

Thinking about the writings I chosen as my role models and how I reacted to Orwell and Didion’s “How I Write”, I realized that as a writer, my goal this semester is to just be able to tell a story, well. Yes, it is egoistic, Yes, it could have political implication. Yes, it could be an artistic attempt. However, if a story is well-written, does it really matter what the purpose behind it is? I just want to be a story-teller.

3 thoughts to “The Beginning”

  1. I really like how you come to your conclusion that you simply want to be a good story-teller. I believe that everyone has a voice that can come through in written words if he or she passionate enough about sharing a story with others. Often times, it may even seem as though writers write for themselves, something Orwell calls “sheer egoism”. Yet, the egoism may not manifest in reaching a stage of personal gratification through writing, but rather, in being able to make one’s thoughts more tangible and to be able to share that with someone else. After all, haven’t most of us ever felt as though writing can be really therapeutic, even if it doesn’t have a tangible impact on us afterwards?

    I do wonder what kind of stories you’ll like to pen. It seems that you want to aim for an effective way of conveying emotions through simplicity. Is there a genre you are leaning toward? I’ll love to hear your stories!

  2. One of my internships this year is writing for the University Record (that newspaper next to the Daily that nobody ever bothers reading). My job is to interview particularly interesting faculty and staff throughout the university community and write an article about them.

    This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with a woman who, on top of working for the Department of African-American Studies, is a third-generation storyteller who goes to various events and venues telling stories, some of which have been passed on through many generations and stored in her brain, more or less.

    I highly recommend reading the article when I write it (shameless self-promotion, I know), whenever that may be. Because, you’re post reminded me of some of the conversations we had. She has a Master’s in journalism, and as a storyteller, talked a lot about the spoken and written word and how invaluable a resource it is. I, myself, am an aspiring screenwriter-director, and obviously like to tell stories in a different way. One of the great things about telling stories, like you said, is the power that the words have.

    Another great thing about storytelling is how many ways (media) can be used: pictures, movies, newspapers, novels, journals, blogs, orally, theater, and, of course, music. I have to give a shout-out to the fact that you mentioned Taylor Swift as an inspiration. As the rare heterosexual male who loves her music, I applaud you.

  3. Regina, I second Crystal’s interest in what kind of stories you’d like to tell–especially in terms of genres that you find compelling/interesting/want to create. I appreciate how you’ve said what you like about Knowles and Swift in terms of storytelling, AND I would push you to get even more specific. What does it mean to be a great storyteller? What does it mean to “write clearly yet express beautifully?” I think you’re really on to something here, and your own development as a storyteller is likely to be more powerful if you can stretch your thinking about it even more and zero in on some specifics.

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