Writing to Build Connections

I love the “Sticky note” function of my laptop. I use stickies for everything: to-do lists, class notes, thoughts that I am trying to get organized, passages from books or articles that really strike me, etc. I love that I can pull them up and put them away whenever I want—they are easily accessible and automatically save themselves.

Anyways. Getting to my point. When I was reading Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” there was a passage that really resonated with me, to the point where I felt the need to copy and paste it onto a sticky note, so that it would be a source of inspiration and trigger of reflection whenever I pulled up my notes on my laptop.

my disastrous sticky note screen

Here is the passage: “Alone in front of a computer, at any moment, are two people: a blogger and a reader. The proximity is palpable, the moment human–whatever authority a blogger has derived not from the institution he works for but from the humanness he conveys….It renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term, that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends.”

Ugh I love these lines so much. They have been guiding my work in Writing 220 as well as my reflections on the side. And they have helped me start to articulate my thoughts on the question Why do I write?

The human connection. That’s the crux of it. As Sullivan says, “a writer and a reader” are “linked in a visceral, personal way.” And he describes this connection as friendship.

In my re-purposing project, I am striving to forge a connection with my readers. A connection that is nothing less than friendship. We are all people, with hearts and minds, anxieties and pains… why not built connections through language?

As I am working to finalize my re-purposing and re-mediation projects, and beginning to construct my e-portfolio, my desire for human connection through writing is guiding my work. I hope that my final drafts of these projects succeed at fostering conversations and personal connections with others.

Orwell and Didion articulate slightly different motivations for writing than Sullivan, but I relate to their shared use of writing as a way to derive meaning from tangible elements of the outside world. Orwell declares, “so long as I remain alive I shall continue to feel strongly about the prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.” He continues, “the job is to reconcile my engrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.”

Orwell’s fixation on tangible, solid objects mirrors Didion’s fascination with “images that shimmer.” She says, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” She writes to answer, “What is going on in these pictures in my mind?

writing to bridge gaps
writing to bridge gaps

Both Didion and Orwell say that they write to build a bridge—to connect what is tangibly out there to what is meaningful. Orwell emphasizes the role of aesthetics in conveying a political agenda. Didion emphasizes the use of writing to answer questions about people’s behavior, and about her own self. They both write to build connections, between the concrete details that make up the material world and a deeper, meaningful, purposeful message.

Though the ideas of Orwell and Didion are slightly different from those of Sullivan, who focuses on the relationship between readers and writers, all three emphasize the capacity of writing to connect and bridge gaps. Between people, experiences, ideas. Between everything. I hope to do this as much as possible through my own writing.

2 thoughts to “Writing to Build Connections”

  1. Hey Annika,
    It’s fascinating that Sullivan classifies the blogger-reader relationship as a “friendship”. Despite in most cases never getting the chance to meet each other, how can two people become friends over a few thousand electronic characters? I think in your blog, as well as mine, it is important to understand what it is about blogs that cultivates this friendship. I think that blogs first and foremost have to be ultra-personal. The key to doing this is 1) writing about something for which you care deeply, and 2) not holding back any emotions, experiences, or insights that you as a person have about the topic. If you are able to do this, as well as take audience into consideration, I think blogging can become a friendship that provokes a meaningful and intimate conversation.

    I also want to touch on your comparison of Didion’s and Orwell’s motivation. How does Didion’s “images” mirror Orwell’s taste for solid objects? Don’t these things contradict each other?
    I really like how you use the word “convey” when describing Orwell’s work while Didion is “writing to answer questions”. I think that hits on the major difference between Orwell’s and Didion’s purpose. They both answer important questions in their writing, but Orwell knows the answers before he begins– using writing as a medium to convey these answers– whereas Didion discovers the answers through writing.

    Great work Annika, hopefully your projects are coming along and I look forward to taking a look at them!

    1. First off, I have seen your sticky notes on your laptop and I know, for sure, how important they are to you. That said, if you copy+pasted that Sullivan quote, I know you really liked it! I also loved the Orwell quote you used, “so long as I remain alive I shall continue to feel strongly about the prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.” Man, something about Orwell, I just love him!

      I digress, I agree with Cole in that I think there are a few important things “cultivates this friendship” between blogger and reader. And those things are passionate and honesty. And, not only that, but writing in a way that isn’t self-indulgent, but in a way that appeals to the reader–whether it be humor or sharing a relatable experience. We all owe it to our readers to keep them interested, and give them something worth reading. I think, also, blogging on a consistent basis cultivates this friendship. The task of blogging is one that relies on a schedule, much like a newspaper, and when we go weeks or months without posting, we lose the loyalty of our readers. It’s important to make them feel like they can rely on us as writers.

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