I have always known I was a reader. I devoured books as a child – storybooks, fairy tales, novels, comics, even thousand-page volumes about the bottom of the ocean – none were safe from my eyes. While I have always known I was a reader, I have only recently discovered that I am a writer as well. It makes complete sense; my love for reading words and studying the way they are strung together translates perfectly into writing and stringing together these words myself. Thinking of myself as a writer while reading Orwell, Didion, and Sullivan allowed me to garner a completely disparate perspective from a reader that considered herself a marine biologist, an engineer, or a lawyer.
I’ll start with what I learned from Orwell. I thoroughly enjoyed his style and tone and the way he clearly wrote with a concrete plan in mind. I admired that he was able to criticize writers as a whole, but also did not spare himself from his own sharp disdain. He categorizes himself as the type of writer who operates out of egoism, or “Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, etc.” out of aesthetic enthusiasm, or in the pleasure gained from the arrangement of one’s own words, and out of historical impulse, or the desire to articulate facts and use them for the author’s own purpose (Orwell). I, too, have found myself motivated by similar incentives. For this reason, I Orwell’s words resonated with me particularly.
Of the three readings, Didion’s was my favorite. Her unassuming, humble, and quirky style appealed to me and kept me interested throughout the piece. She states several times that she does not completely know what she was doing. She admits, “In short I tried to think. I failed” (Didion). Like Orwell, I appreciate her ability to pinpoint concretely what makes her write. Stating, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means” (Didion). I identified with her last line in particular, “Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel” (Didion). The questions she is talking about are the ones that formed her novel. They came to her randomly and unformed, but she was able to transform them into something complete and linear. I admire her ability to do this and to build a whole story around a single name.
Finally, while reading Sullivan’s “Why I Blog,” I was slightly put off by the self-importance that I found in his work. I agree with his main points – that blogging is a new and malleable form of writing that allows authors to quickly and dynamically share their opinions – but I thought that his post was overly long and verbose, and that his concessions to the importance of traditional writing seemed forced and unauthentic. I cannot define specifically what it is about his style that I find annoying – perhaps it is the way he frequently compares himself to a disc jockey or a jazz musician, or perhaps it is the way he often states that he was one of the earliest bloggers in the blogosphere, as if it gives him a specific right to write. Perhaps the straight-faced, black-and-white picture he includes at the very top, before any content, cemented my opinion before I read anything at all. Whatever it may be, Sullivan was my least favorite of the readings and the one I least identified with.
Whether I liked the readings or not, I’ll still be sure to keep them in the back of my mind as models while I continue to traipse through my career as an aspiring writer.