Response to Why I Write readings

Wow. After reading a phrase like “pleasure in the impact of one sound on another,” how can you not fall in love with the rhythm of a good sentence sentence, the beauty of words, or even just with George Orwell himself? That one phrase not only gave me a (perhaps too literal, but nonetheless effective) mental image of alphabet sounds body-slamming one another in the margins of a page, but it also spoke to that little jolt of pleasure I always get when I read a certain sentence or phrase that just works. Like a nugget of poetry within standard prose. Orwell’s later discussion of writing as a political and public act definitely resonated with me, although I feel like in today’s age there is a lot of writing out there that focuses on the personal rather than the political. Sure, it is impossible to write in a completely isolated vacuum; a writer has a past connected to others, lives in the contemporary world, has had certain experiences. But with the modern concept of blogs as a form of instant personal expression, (maybe even personal “word vomit”?) would Orwell be disappointed in today’s intrapersonal writers for our shortage of political drive? Do we lack sufficient Animal Farm’s in the blogosphere? Or are the fiery rants on sites like certain Tea Party blogs equally potent? I wonder what Orwell would be writing about if he lived in today’s world with us…

One thing I know Orwell would recognize as a universal mainstay with writers both then and now is the idea of writing as egoism. Joan Didion’s recognition of the inherent “I” sound in the phrase “why I write” humorously speaks to the idea of writing as an act of our own egos. Of course we write selfishly…writing is a form of self-expression begging to be seen/read/heard! Whether it’s a quirky tweet, an argumentative essay, or a letter to the editor—writing seems to me first and foremost a way for us to express ourselves and our own views to someone else. So what if that seems “imposing,” “aggressive” or even “hostile” as Didion recognizes? Humans, well at least all of the humans I know, sometimes need to use words in a selfish way to communicate effectively. Yes, I know in an academic paper you are supposed to take out all of the “I”s (which sometimes leads to funky stuff like “Therefore, one could say…”), but isn’t the “I” always implied? Well, here’s to hoping for some good, selfish writing this semester!

3 thoughts to “Response to Why I Write readings”

  1. I’m on a mission to get rid of the idea that there aren’t supposed to be “I’s” in an academic paper–we’ll be reading about that in a great book called _Stylish Academic Writing_. 🙂

  2. Hey Amy!
    Wow, I love your writing style – no joke! The way you write reminds me of Didion’s way of describing the pictures in her mind, descriptive with vivid imagery. I thought your post was very interesting, especially since I least identified with Orwell. I loved the part in your post pondering about how Orwell would feel with this new blog concept and the concept of personal writing compared to writing with a political purpose. However, I do think he would encourage controversial writing, personal or political, especially looking at his works such as Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four. He’s probing a reaction from his audience, and what’s the difference between that and blogging? Blogging is just an instantaneous form of receiving reader’s opinions and reactions.

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