Writing is all around us. As I sit ensconced in the library amidst the plethora of books that call our University home, this realization is all too easy to see. The proliferation of ideas has progressed communities, countries, and ultimately the world in ways that will impact human affairs forever.
Writing’s immensity and inconceivable historical significance, coupled with my never before having engaged in writing in such a manner as blogging permits, makes me experience a sort of inner turmoil as I write my first entry. Who am I to think my sporadic, unrehearsed blog paragraphs matter to anyone or anything? Why should someone of my intellectual stature be permitted to write anything other than assigned essays pertaining to a professor’s course material? How can the thoughts of a person leading a relatively trifling life think he has any right to freely and publicly compose writing? The thousands of authors on the surrounding shelves stare down at me with disapproval.
I then get lost in thought of what a privilege it is to be able to write what one chooses to whom he chooses, not to mention possess the ability to write at all. My instinct for writing this is that it should be good; it would be a grave disservice to the great writers and minds whose works influence us, to those who designed this freedom I take for granted, and to those who wish to voice their opinions but lack the skills or resources to do so, to simply throw together some incoherent thoughts of mine or pontificate about whatever happens to catch my fancy.
Questions similar (though perhaps not as complicated) to my own internal, philosophical quarrel were raised by Orwell and Didion, two authors who took a deeper look at why it is they do what they do.
Orwell analyzed his childhood and the writing he produced during it to understand where he was as a writer. A lonely upbringing and a natural affinity for words and describing things let him know early one that he was meant to be a writer. He argued that the temperaments and attitudes gained from the early stages of one’s life influence him greatly. While all writers, he set forth, are vain, selfish, and lazy, their true motive for writing is a mystery. One of Orwell’s main motives was to turn political writing into an art as he reconciled the injustices and politics of his time with his own personal attributes.
Orwell’s piece resonates with me for many reasons. I think it touches on the complexity and mystery of writing that I toil with. One of the great authors of our time, it is comforting to read his discussion of what drives him to write, as well as his conjectures of why others write, which could be due to sheer egoism.
Didion’s piece of writing possessed more abstract qualities than Orwell’s. Rather than listing her observed motivations that writers have, she delved into her own mind to rationalize her craft. She discussed her inability growing up to switch her mind from the simple physical recognition of the world around her to one more thoughtful and introspective. She writes in order to understand what is going on in her mind, to make sense of the pictures that occupy it. Didion viewed herself as a separate entity from her head, which was sort of doing its own thing and the only way to figure it out what it was up to was to physically translate it on paper.
Didion’s struggle to understand why she should write (instead of just think) also resonates with me. I think it is useful to witness another, more advanced writer have doubts about her motivations.
I spent three quarters of an hour struggling to pick an essay that I wish to emulate or find intelligent. I considered Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 speech following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, a Supreme Court case decided by Justice Antonin Scalia, and an essay about camping by Ernest Hemingway. Also crossing my mind were Viktor Frankl’s short book Man’s Search for Meaning (for which my “blog” title is cleverly named after) and John V. Lindsay’s A Journey into Politics. Even an essay by Aristotle was considered. While I wish to emulate all of these authors’ writing, from the persuasive, argumentatively concrete decisions of Justice Scalia to the metaphoric, artistic works of Hemingway, I felt that such writers must be approached in a traditional book-report style. Great writers should deserve great attention and care, right?
I finally settled on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter to a Birmingham Jail.” His piece effectively argues for integration, for an end to racism. I find Dr. King’s rational, respectful approach to this letter particularly intriguing. Never does he scorn the racist clergymen he writes to, or deviate from an amicable tone even considering the injustices he and his people were experiencing. In addition to his powerful diction and use of the words of prominent intellects, Dr. King’s ability to present his ideas in a straightforward and respectful manner is something all writers should strive to replicate. Given his situation and the conditions of the ‘60s, it is remarkable that he was able to write the way he did. I see his style in this letter as lending him and his cause great credibility. His words simply could not be ignored.
I think the simplicity of the blog is something I have to work to internalize. After years of being told what to write about and how to write it, the sudden nudge to write more informally for more personal reasons has filled my head with the implications of blogging. I become flummoxed by the sheer magnitude of writing that is all around us, and the conditions under which those authors produced their timeless works. While part of me, especially after reading my entry, thinks that I’m over-complicating matters, I don’t feel right withholding the considerations I’ve presented here.
I plan to take the works of Orwell, Didion, and Dr. King with me through my blogging career. They help me figure out why I write, and what implications it has. Whether it is politically inspired, like Orwell and Dr. King, or simply to interpret what your brain is up to, like Didion, the works of these authors makes me realize that the only prerequisite to writing is that you are passionate. The writing gods won’t (or at least will be less likely to) scorn you, and your thoughts can inspire someone to think about similar things. As long as you have some heart in it, the rest comes easy. No one can take away from a piece of writing you care about, especially if it is persuasive and well-written like Dr. King’s letter. As I move forward with blogging, I want to focus more on topics’ meaning to me, and speak my thoughts in an articulate and thoughtful way. The mysteries of writing are plentiful; blogging can help us make sense of it.