First of all, I thought both writers were really engaging and I enjoyed listening to them to speak about writing. It made me want to go home and write. Instead, I went out to dinner and returned to my room to write this essay, fat and happy without a single memory of what I originally intended to write about in this blog post. So I’ll let the words flow. See what happens. Hopefully not this:
One of the most notable parts of the night for me was hearing Melanie Pugh talk about how she had to stop thinking about herself as a writer in order to start writing. The word “writer” carried connotations of being published, and of serving an audience. Moreover, it implied a certain quality of writing. Only by putting aside thoughts of an audience and of achieving excellence, could she begin to write; or at least that’s how I interpreted her words. I have to heartily agree with everything she said. Who has ever sat down to write, thought “I am going to be so amazing and write the most amazing thing,” and actually managed to write? For me, in order to write, I have to let go of the medium, of writing itself. At least at first, I have to focus on my topic, arguments and my evidence. Once those are down, I can take a step back and look at how my ideas are packaged
Thinking of yourself as a writer carries another preconception, which I think hinders writing. This kind of thinking: “I am a writer; therefore I am published. I am published; I become a writer) .” I find it problematic. It makes one focus too much on an audience. You’re probably thinking “What? There is such a thing as focusing too much on an audience? Isn’t one of the main things we’re focusing on in this class how to shape our writing to appeal/target an audience?” Or maybe not. You might be thinking about what you had for lunch. Anyways, writing for an audience is all well in good. Professional writers have to keep in mind their audience. Yet blatant appeals to an audience without the substance of a strong mind and a strong topic can lead to superficial, crowd-pandering articles, that don’t have a vision of their own. The kind of writing I imagine this person to create:
Essentially the kind of person who sees writing as a vehicle, not for ideas but for their own ego; they’re the kind of people who don’t understand that most writers don’t actually make that much money.
Another peril is that focusing to much on getting published and getting an audience is that it can lead to writers being unable to write as they lose sight of their own ideas in favor of what they think an imaginary body of people will like. Yet sometimes writing to a specific audience can be useful; many books have been made up for letters, not intended for the public but to a sibling, spouse or close friend. For that reason they have a certain intimacy. But I digress. I think of writing as this deeply personal thing, even if I’m writing something that is not necessarily focused on me and my life. The writer’s hand cannot be strained or filtered out of a piece like dirty water out of a dish rag, it’s intrinsic to how the piece was created, even if its merely choices about structure rather than opinion. Sometimes it’s more than that though:
So can you know someone by reading their writing? Would it have to be a particular genre of writing such as journal or poetry? Or is it a particular kind of writing; it is said that bad writing says more about the writer than the subject. Do writers come off differently in their writing than they do in real life? Why might that be? Is it impossible to know someone through writing because the writing can’t talk back? Or is it that complete lack of direct action between the reader and the writer, that exposes the writer’s true essence because s/he can’t shape their writing for an individual stranger? Can you get a sense of a writer from their readers?