My name is Evan Mack, and I – like you – am nearing the resolve of my college career. It’s hard not to talk about graduation in these types of introductions (the impact of your major, the timeliness and stickiness of job placement, et cetera…), but I will do my best to eschew that temptation in the hope that our conversations will nourish more permanent thirsts. For example, there are many questions that I find myself still unable to answer, even after battling with them for four academic years: Is purpose self-created? If so, is purpose arbitrary? Are we ever actually objective in meaningful discourse (re: political and social commentary)? The list goes on, and I hope I will be able to discuss some of these questions with you all in this class.
In our first meeting this past week, I named two different writing communities I had been a part of: the more creative realm of “creative non-fiction” writing, as well as the more linear and pragmatic community of “business writers.” Most of us described two writing communities of similar structure. I discussed the tension between the two communities by using the oft-mentioned phrase “show, don’t tell.” This platitude embodied the great differences in our writing communities. In creative writing, the writer was expected to show their truths through metaphor and dialogue. In more professional writing, the writer was told to “get to the point,” having frequently been told that dialogue was pointless.
As much as these two writing communities appeared different, more time spent in these writing communities revealed similarities that were at first dismissed. Both had a very important effect on the other. For instance, my “creative non-fiction” community was often infatuated by the nuanced differences between word choices; however, these nuances – when actively embraced – became quite useful in my business writing. I realized that perhaps “hacking the path to purchase” was a more meaningful description of the customer’s routine, rather than saying “chasing sales. Similarly, when I dealt with busy executives, one truth became inescapable: they were busier than I was. The task of minimizing words was prioritized in my writing. I brought that to my more creative circles.
Despite the core similarities between the two communities, one glaring inconsistency between them reveals their dissimilarity: the writing’s purpose. For most, using creative non-fiction as a genre permits a sort of fleshing out of subconscious ideas. The story being written is true (in that it is not fiction), yet artistic liberty is granted to its interpretation, which in turn justifies and remedies the author’s emotions. By juxtaposing stories, the author is not creating new stories, but threading a needle between them; thus, “from the ashes,” as they say, a version of a “true” story has been born. This is an entirely meditative process – largely, written for an audience of one. On the other hand, business writing is entirely focused on the audience of many. Its purpose is less reflective and more prescriptive.