Whenever I am engaging in a conversation with someone and they ask what I am pursuing as a career, I simply state, “Well, I love writing.” They look at me for a while, waiting for me to explain further, before they ask, “So do you write novels or something?” I am taken aback when this is the response and I almost feel sorry for those who immediately associate being a writer with being the author of a novel.
While I know that you do not have to be in the same field or be the same type of thinker for a piece to speak to you, it certainly does help. I have never really thought of myself as a creative writer (as in writing fiction or prose) so I cannot relate entirely to George Orwell and Joan Didion’s “Why I Write” pieces respectively. I don’t think I have ever experienced seeing the glimmer, which Didion talks about, nor can I apply all of the motivations Orwell speaks about to my own life as a writer.
All that being said, I think that not identifying with a writer who came before you is truly the beauty of writing. As a writer, you are not confined to one style or format; you can try your hand at anything, as long as you posses some motivation. Of course there were instances when I was on the same page with Didion and Orwell, like Didion’s claim that the reason why writers write is to mull over questions in order to find answers. Likewise, I agreed with one of the motivations to write that Orwell talks about— sheer egoism. As a writer you want to seem clever and have a strong presence, not to mention who doesn’t love getting published?
The catch for me with sheer egoism is that Orwell claims that writers want to be talked about. While being talked about and making a (good) name for yourself as a writer does seem like a promising goal, I feel like if you want to lead readers to a certain conclusion, you have to be in conversation with them. This is why Andrew Sullivan’s essay “Why I blog” sticks with me more than the others; the emphasis isn’t just about getting your own point across, it’s about collaboration.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been one to sit down and start writing the plot of an original novel; however, I have always kept a journal. While some of the things I write are personal, I sometimes catch myself wondering if people would care to hear what I am writing. This is, as Sullivan states, what blogging is: “[Blogging] transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.”
It might sound odd, but I love this idea of being exposed and being the truest form of myself. I think that, as a writer, it speaks volumes if you allow yourself to reach the extent of vulnerability that blogging entails. I understand that there is still vulnerability in writing a novel, but you are not presenting yourself and your raw ideas openly for (potential) public ridicule; instead, you can take shelter behind your characters and plot. With blogging, you break down the barricade and welcome the readers into your own personal life. Sullivan summarizes this point well, saying, “To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth.” So rather than thinking of writing as an individual act, blogging transformed writing into a collaborative production. Writers who blog look to others to aid them, provide their own insight, and bring other sources to the table. And in my novice writing eyes, that’s what it’s all about— having a rewarding conversation.