Ignorance is Bliss, Except When Blogging

 

In some ways it is difficult to relate to Andrew Sullivan as a blogger, simply because of his position in the journalism world versus mine (none). Writing on this blog once a week about how my projects are coming or what I think about the reading doesn’t make me too conscious or worried about the comments I’m going to get back. I’m making claims about any news-worthy, but controversial events that all you readers are going to blow-up on me for writing or even contradict in many ways. I also don’t have to worry about being too wrong in what I’m writing, either. Sullivan says that a blog is almost like a diary that is instantly posted for people to see, and in my “diary” here I don’t make too many predictions or presumptuous claims that can be refuted with new information – I just talk about me! Read More

Becoming Vulnerable

What stuck me the most while going through the e-Portfolios is the vulnerability that is required by the creators. Each person is putting their work out there for people to view wholly. In one of the student’s portfolio, she described a piece of writing as the most vulnerable but honest she has been. Not only are individual pieces of writing vulnerable for the author, but also the entire portfolio exposes the author. One student said, “I hope you enjoy getting to know who I am through my website.” Letting someone get “to know who I am” is quite revealing.  It seems like it would be a little jarring to present yourself, your writing, your ambitions to the world-wide web. Read More

The Classroom Production Line

My Weekend of Writing, image credit sscnet.ucla.edu

On Monday I had two essay drafts, one journal entry, and a blog post for another class due. As you can imagine, I declared the weekend my “writing weekend” and strictly stuck to that theme. However, I believe I might be in need of some more creative names because I don’t believe this will be the last one in store for the semester. My load this semester includes three sociology classes and this writing class, but all are heavily focused on writing. The first week of classes I can’t remember the amount of times I heard professors lecture on the importance of good writing skills, and how they intended to improve these over the course of the semester.

As college students, we are constantly being reminded of the importance of writing – either for grad school or our resumes or our careers. It is important to be able to produce something that communicates messages effectively and hopefully eloquently. Just think, most of us in this class probably are here because of these things.

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An Early Update – My Inspiration

I’ve decided to post my blog a lot earlier than I thought I would because of the surprising progress I had last night while starting on a little homework. I like to multi-task, especially while working out, so while I was running I tried to think about what I wanted to write for this upcoming paper. Maybe it was the endorphins, but for one of the few times in my life it was like I had an epiphany! Okay, I probably wouldn’t classify it as an epiphany, but it was exciting to actually be so productive while I was focusing on how many miles I had left before I was done.

Map of My Ideas

I really figured out what I wanted to do when I thought about my history with writing – how it has developed through my education and what roles it has played. As soon as I got back to my apartment after running I started jotting down my ideas, almost in a map-like form (something I really never do, but ended up being really helpful!). In the center I wrote “how writing chose me” and all around I started brainstorming all the events that have come together that brought me to realizing the role of writing in my life. In one corner I wrote teachers names and in another corner I wrote about my childhood. In other places I wrote things like “career” or “future” with lines going to other places. I wrote a sentence about my faith and the role that plays in everything. There were circles and arrows all over, but I was excited to sit down and decipher it all into a coherent paper now that I knew what I was doing.

Now that I am beginning working on the paper again, I’m becoming a little more frustrated with it. The initial excitement of discovering what I want to write about is going away. Fitting together all the stories and ideas is becoming more difficult to do with words than it was with arrows and lines. I’m second guessing how certain events actually play a role in why I write. I keep thinking things like, “Maybe my eighth grade teacher  telling me I was a good writer doesn’t really matter,” or “Maybe the creativity I used while drawing didn’t actually translate to anything about writing.” It all seemed to look a lot better in picture form than on the Word document opened on my laptop screen.

After publishing this blog, I’m going to have to find some new clarity on the topic. Writing is a process for me. I can’t just sit down and write an essay all in one night, so I guess I knew this was coming. My running inspiration didn’t last long, but hey, maybe I just found a new process that works for me.

Writing My “Story”

When first hearing the title “Why I Write” for both Orwell ‘s and Didion’s writing, I thought about the reason why I write is normally because I have to. Outside of classroom assignments I don’t typically spend time writing much besides maybe some personal thoughts or ideas in a journal I use occasionally. I’m not a blogger or a poet or even a big journaler, but right at the beginning of Orwell’s declaration of why he writes I realized how untrue it was that my sole purpose for writing is not because I have to.

I love the way Orwell explains the stories that he narrated in his head about the world around him. “Quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw,” was how he explained it. It’s kind of like his own reality show happening in his head – entertainment from his daily life. I personally can’t say I narrate my own life as if I were writing a novel, but I have joked with my friends about what a reality show based on our lives would be like – what scenes, locations, and plots would be common. Maybe we are writing our own “stories” in a modern Orwell-like way.

What differentiates me from Orwell, however, is how I use those “stories” and scenes in my head more in a way that Didion explains. I remember those details, those thoughts and turn them into my writing. I try to figure out those events to make some greater analysis of my surroundings. Like Didion I “write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

I wish I could say that these writings evolved into pieces that evoked some political thought or stirred some ideas like Orwell’s did, but that never seems to be the case. Actually, those are my favorite types of writing to read myself – ones that make me understand things in a new way and make new parallels about important issues. Unfortunately, I tend to be so wrapped up in my own story that I don’t take the next step to purpose my writing for some greater idea.

The piece I’m bringing in for our assignment is a creative non-fiction essay written by Bich Minh Ngugen. I can imagine her agreeing with Didion about her reasons for writing. The essay uses a narrative of her childhood to depict the struggles she had growing up in an all-white neighborhood while she her family had immigrated from Vietnam before she was born. She uses so many vivid scenes to show us her conflict. She uses her words to create these scenes for us that were so real to her, and by the end we are left as torn as she is. I don’t feel a sense of resolution or notice some great political agenda being pushed, but I do get a sense of understanding that is unique to this author. I hope that my writing can be something like hers, showing a reader an idea in a way that haven’t thought about it before – through my experience.

So, maybe most of my serious writing happens when I have to, but my inspiration of what I do write is summed up by Didion pretty well when she says, “The picture tells you how to arrange the words…It tells you. You don’t tell it.”