Writing My “Story”

When first hearing the title “Why I Write” for both Orwell ‘s and Didion’s writing, I thought about the reason why I write is normally because I have to. Outside of classroom assignments I don’t typically spend time writing much besides maybe some personal thoughts or ideas in a journal I use occasionally. I’m not a blogger or a poet or even a big journaler, but right at the beginning of Orwell’s declaration of why he writes I realized how untrue it was that my sole purpose for writing is not because I have to.

I love the way Orwell explains the stories that he narrated in his head about the world around him. “Quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw,” was how he explained it. It’s kind of like his own reality show happening in his head – entertainment from his daily life. I personally can’t say I narrate my own life as if I were writing a novel, but I have joked with my friends about what a reality show based on our lives would be like – what scenes, locations, and plots would be common. Maybe we are writing our own “stories” in a modern Orwell-like way.

What differentiates me from Orwell, however, is how I use those “stories” and scenes in my head more in a way that Didion explains. I remember those details, those thoughts and turn them into my writing. I try to figure out those events to make some greater analysis of my surroundings. Like Didion I “write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

I wish I could say that these writings evolved into pieces that evoked some political thought or stirred some ideas like Orwell’s did, but that never seems to be the case. Actually, those are my favorite types of writing to read myself – ones that make me understand things in a new way and make new parallels about important issues. Unfortunately, I tend to be so wrapped up in my own story that I don’t take the next step to purpose my writing for some greater idea.

The piece I’m bringing in for our assignment is a creative non-fiction essay written by Bich Minh Ngugen. I can imagine her agreeing with Didion about her reasons for writing. The essay uses a narrative of her childhood to depict the struggles she had growing up in an all-white neighborhood while she her family had immigrated from Vietnam before she was born. She uses so many vivid scenes to show us her conflict. She uses her words to create these scenes for us that were so real to her, and by the end we are left as torn as she is. I don’t feel a sense of resolution or notice some great political agenda being pushed, but I do get a sense of understanding that is unique to this author. I hope that my writing can be something like hers, showing a reader an idea in a way that haven’t thought about it before – through my experience.

So, maybe most of my serious writing happens when I have to, but my inspiration of what I do write is summed up by Didion pretty well when she says, “The picture tells you how to arrange the words…It tells you. You don’t tell it.”

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