Defining Writing

Last week’s in-class discussion made me frustrated, but in a positive way.

As a student journalist, I think about writing every day. My view of writing has changed quite a bit since I landed on campus as a freshman, but I never thought writing could be expressed through a painting with no words or a video without captions.

And maybe that’s not writing. But it’s kind of more fun to believe that it is.

As we delved deeper into the definition of writing, I realized that any image really could be writing. “What about hieroglyphics?” I suggested in class. It gave me a massive headache thinking about how any painting could justifiably be writing.

I came into class thinking that my view of writing was already fairly broad. I listed three examples of writing the day before, and that included a screenshot of my Twitter (after all, posts are 14o character short stories!), a NYTimes video, and a Daily article I wrote this summer. Turns out, my thoughts weren’t really out of the box.

I think my most intriguing post was the NYTimes video because I defined it as writing merely because it tells a story, and that’s why writing exists. It was kind of a stretch. But think about it. How much writing went into creating that video? A lot. I know that producers poured over timelines and stories within the main story to reach the final product of a three-minute video.

Our class discussion clarified why we did the cut-up assignment a few days before. Sometimes an out-of-the-box view of polished writing can create ideas bigger and better than ever imagined. Ong claimed that writing is artificial, but I don’t think of writing that way. Some of the things I’m most proud are related to writing, and I don’t think that’s unauthentic.

So how do I define writing now? I think I’m going to define it as something that tells a story, and if I don’t believe it to be writing, all you have to do is justify it for me. I think if someone believes something is writing, all they have to do is make a case for why it is and I’ll accept it…

…within reason, of course.

Kelly Hall

I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying Psychology with minors in Writing and Entrepreneurship. I love writing about community events, especially those involving sports. On campus, I spend most of my time at the Michigan Daily, where I'm a sports editor and writer.

2 thoughts to “Defining Writing”

  1. Hey Kelly! I definitely agree that my views on writing have changed a lot since freshman year. I came in with a very set idea of writing, which was basically writing assigned papers that didn’t really care about. Now as a junior and a writing minor, writing means more to me than arguing about the symbolism of water in a novel. Like I said in my post, I think that any product of writing counts as writing as well. Your definition is more abstract and broad, but I think they overlap quite a bit. I’ll also try and have your open mind and be open to justification if I don’t agree at first, but no promises.

  2. I completely agree with you about the video ( and other things like it). Some things end up taking a lot more work than what ends up on the surface and writing is a hugely important aspect of many things like that. I also agree with your definition (for the most part). Writing itself is subjective and so are the views about it. It’s the kind of thing that fosters a good discussion.

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