Orwell and Didion gave an interesting insight on their writing processes and the reasons they write. It was very interesting to see both of them take the label of a writer and the wrestle they had with that title. Didion puts it, “All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was. Which was a writer.” I found that hilarious and also extremely personal because coming into college it seemed everyone had a plan for a major, and all I could seem to do was come up of a pretty detailed list of what I did not want to do. Unfortunately, the list for what I did want to do was not as easy to write.
On the other hand, Orwell comes out with the same idea of knowing that he “should” be a writer but tries to “abandon” the idea of it. His imagination as a child attributed to the “should” part of him becoming a writer. With Didion’s and Orwell’s resistance to take the title of a writer, it makes me wonder of the nightmare that must exist in writer’s struggling with accepting their destiny. If you ask an engineer they will tell you with confidence they are an engineer (even if they are just an engineering student). If you ask some one that is pre-med, they will look you right in the eyes and tell you they are going to be a doctor of some sort. So, where is the confidence, the acceptance of taking on the title of ‘writer’ among people where it seems to be an inevitable destiny?
I had the pleasure of taking a class here at the University of Michigan with re-known writer, Lorna Goodison. One class we convinced her to do a reading of her memoir and she agreed. After, we asked questions and someone asked her why she writes. She simply said it was because she had no other choice. A follow up question was asking what she meant by that. She began to describe how she gets a weird feeling and then she knows she needs to write something or she won’t feel ‘normal’ again until she does. From reading Didion and Orwell, I’m beginning to believe more and more that being a writer is not a choice.

3 thoughts to “WRITER”

  1. It seemed like each of the “Why I Write/Blog” essays showed this compulsion to write as one of their reasons, which is what you touch on here. It seems like it is really true. I also really like how Orwell talked about not being able to express himself in other normal ways, which might be one of the main reasons that these authors feel the need to write. Maybe its their best way to communicate what they think or feel or desire.

    Maybe that is true of people that are more confident of their career choices like you talk about, too. I know as a sociology student I am planning on going into social work or non-profit work mostly because I really can’t imagine doing anything else. It seems ingrained in me. I can imagine that this is true with a lot of people.

    – Eva

  2. Shanell,

    You make some very interesting points in this post that I found myself relating to quite frequently. Firstly, I must say that I came to U of M thinking that I was going to go into the business school and excel given my past business experience. Little did I know, however, that Calculus and Econ 101 don’t care how business savvy you are when you step into their lecture hall doors. At the same time, ever since I was in the 3rd grade, I always had this inkling that I wanted to be a lawyer. I’m not sure if it was the title that intrigued me, the fact that I like and am good at arguing, the financial reward, or something minor about the occupation that fascinated me. Nevertheless, I feel as if I cannot be happy with my career choice until I at least try to be a lawyer. Like some people have a compulsion to write, I have a compulsion to go to law school…or at least try.

    Luckily, or perhaps unfortunately, law school and being a lawyer both come with lots of writing involved; it comes with the territory. In turn, writing will ultimately become a compulsion or necessity for me to fulfill the responsibilities of my job. With this being the case (no pun intended), it appears as if the art/task/unshakeable duty of writing is to follow me in whatever career path I choose.

  3. Shanell, I was most taken with two particular moments in this post: 1. The moment where you related to Didion’s only knowing what she DIDN’T want to be, and 2. The moment where you talk about the discussion with Goodison. Both of those have huge potential to really reveal something to/about yourself as a developing writer, and I would have liked to have seen even more. What are the things you DON’T want to do, etc.? And why did that Didion quote resonate with you as funny, rather than as some other emotion? I bet you have really good reasons for the reactions that you have, and I’d like to know more about them. I also appreciate your observation about the confidence with which some people mention their career choices, and others don’t–and your question about why this isn’t true of these two writers? (It seems it might be true of Sullivan, but you don’t mention him here, and I wonder where your exemplar pieces are…?) Keep pushing yourself to really explicate those most compelling moments.

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