As someone who disdains all monotonous handwritten homework dealing with numbers and concepts, the assignment to read three articles about writing seemed like one to immediately embrace. So, upon the date of receiving said assignment, I ran home to pore over them. Now, six days later, after the immediate resonances I found with each, I can confidently say I have digested the readings and they have made a far more profound impact on my memory than did any other work I completed this week. Now, with a second perusal and a class discussion under my belt, I’m more convinced than ever that the deeply personal side of writing is the best motivation to create, and that the ability to get a glimpse of the personalities behind these three great writers is an absolute gift. Because of this, I cannot focus on just one aspect or author who resonated most within me, but I want to discuss how I was so inspired by the combination of the three articles.
Understanding the desire to write is one that I think can only be understood by fellow aspiring writers. I know that I haven’t quite discovered what my own motivation to write is yet, but it’s inside me somewhere, because I was captivated by Didion’s, Orwell’s, and Sullivan’s articles. I was fascinated by Didion’s need to write simply for answers, fascinated by Orwell’s commentary on the four main motives to write, and even more fascinated by the completely unique style of Sullivan’s blog-like article (which is the current motivation behind my attempt at eloquently casual writing).
Of course the three articles were vastly different, but I think I was most stricken by how each conveyed a certain sense of isolation and distant observation in writing. Right out of the gate, Didion acknowledges the concept of “I” within writing (based on the title), and how much the author imposes him or herself unto the reader. By furthering her discussion of writing as a means to gain an understanding both of herself and her surroundings, it left me with an image of a sole person sitting in a crowded area, completely absorbed in a notebook. And I don’t mean this in a sad or pathetic way, I mean it in a thoughtful and pensive manner. Didion’s use of a single image to create backstories for her actual surroundings and characters turns this isolation into a personal world.
This thorough creation of stories reminded me a lot of how Orwell claimed he made up vivid descriptions of his actions, surroundings, and loved finding the proper wordings for both while he was growing up. Within the first few lines of his article, Orwell associates his lonely childhood with his need to make up stories and fictional conversations. Moving on to his discussion of egoism, I gained an even further sense of the individualistic nature of writing.
However, then I moved onto Sullivan’s article and I found the theme of isolation to be completely different. Sullivan focused on the need for conversational and instant feedback from his blog, and how important it was to be accessible to with his readers. Ironically, this connection allows for the blogger to be more raw and personal, creating an even bigger schism between readers and writers, despite the two sided dialogue. Furthermore, as an avid blogger, Sullivan has to defend the art of his writing style against those who believe it is less meaningful than a thoroughly researched and edited piece of work. This isolates him from much of the writing world in and of itself.
Ultimately, I sit here and could have talked about the parts of the articles I found funny or charming or sad, but what truly resonated within me was how deeply individual these articles each were and how I aspire to achieve such a level of uniqueness. After all, who wants to read something they’ve already read? I think maybe the trick to great writing is understanding how to use your isolation as a personal microscope of the world. Everyone writes for a different reason, but it seems to me that each different reason is just a variation of a desperate need to write simply to gain some kind of better connection to the world.