What is writing?

Seems like a simple enough question.  Most of us write all the time: we write academically, we write socially, some of us even write in our spare time.  But when it comes down to it, what are we writing?  The Ong piece brought up the idea that writing is a symbolic way of sharing our thoughts.  It also mentioned that writing is artificial, it’s something we have to put down and therefore it loses its naturalness.

 

Plato was a big naysayer against writing; he claimed it was inhuman and was falsifying what went on in the mind.  My question is, how are writing and speaking that different from each other?  Isn’t using spoken word taking a thought in your mind and putting it out into the real world?  Is that artificial then?  The ideas of “real” and “artificial” are so blurry and vague that it becomes easy to say that all things are artificial.  And what necessarily makes artificial bad?  If I were to ever meet Plato, I would definitely ask him some of these questions, my biggest one being: How can you write about how bad writing is?  Isn’t that the most hypocritical thing to do?  If you think writing is so bad, then don’t do it.  But then the difficult part becomes communicating.  Writing makes living easier.  Writing allows some piece of yourself to be preserved in time to convey the thought that you were feeling.

 

Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form.” (W. Ong, 1982, p. 77)

Ghostwriting and plagiarism.

It is really interesting to think about the connections between ghostwriting and plagiarism.  Deborah Brandt explores this phenomenon in her piece, Literacy and Learning.  It is extremely odd to think that though plagiarism is majorly frowned upon in any academic or literary world, ghostwriting is fairly common.  Isn’t ghostwriting essentially plagiarism?  Let alone the fact that Brandt highlights a ghostwriting company that claims to be reputable in protecting “authors” (buyers of the ghostwriter’s work) from lawsuits regarding plagiarism.  That is just hilarious to me.  The author, especially professionals, should not have to rely on someone else to write for them.  If the person is famous, there is a reason that they got into that position in the first place.  Their writing must be successful enough to stand on their own.  Are they really that lazy that they no longer feel the need to write, yet still want credit for writing?  The other question I have is about the ghostwriter: who are these people?  They obviously have talent if they can pass off their work for someone else’s.  Why are they not trying to get their own name out there?  Why feel the need to spend time on a piece and then get none of the credit?  The whole thing is laughable to me.

I write for myself.

I am planning on exploring the reasons why I write through a series of three vignettes each depicting a different time in my life where I wrote for a different reason.  Hopefully my readers will be able to discern what the main point of each short story is, what my objective for picking that story to tell. I hope that these stories will be descriptive enough but not overbearing and each fit together to show all of the many reasons that I write.  I also want to show how the reason for my writing has evolved over time and become more about myself.  I write to gain other’s approval.  I write to achieve a letter grade.  I write for myself.

I admit, I’m a sucker for a good story…

Most of the time, my attention is grabbed with an interesting protagonist and a gripping plot.  As long as the story is good, certain things (like the writing abilities of the author) can be overlooked.  I equate it to watching a really cheesy Lifetime movie; you know the writing and acting is horrible yet something, some unknown driving force, keeps you in your seat.

After surrounding myself with novels of that nature for so long, it is really striking to be able to enjoy a writer of true prose.  Ever since reading her first book, Jhumpa Lahiri has quickly moved to the top of my favorite author list.  Not only is she able to tell a story using an absolutely exquisite and unique voice, her novels are also extremely compelling.

A Temporary Matter is a short story taken from Lahiri’s novel, Interpreter of Maladies. It tells the tale of a married couple who have fallen apart in the months since their baby was born dead.  Though the plot isn’t the most exciting, I was captivated from the beginning through to the end. I think the characteristic from Lahiri that I would most like to emulate is her attention to detail in her descriptions.

Now I do want to admit this up front: my fondness for her writing could definitely be biased based on the topic that Lahiri discusses in almost every piece of her writing.  She focuses on adapting culturally and otherwise between the culture of India and that of the US.  I am not Indian, nor have I ever had to adapt to a different culture – however, my boyfriend has.  He was born in the US to parents that had recently immigrated from India.  Abhi has had many experiences in which the two cultures have clashed. The main one would have to be that he has been dating a white, Christian girl (me!) for almost two years. His parents have had trouble accepting this and have refused to meet me.  Because of these experiences in my life, it is extremely interesting to be able to read prose that has been told from the perspective of the “other side.” It has allowed me to be patient and even more understanding in my situation and I thank Jhumpa Lahiri for that.

Why I Write

I enjoyed the George Orwell piece on writing very much. He was descriptive and showed how he began writing at a very early age. I thought my personal reasons for writing were very different than his because I was more involved in essay writing as a child and grew slowly into fictional writing as I grew older. His piece was extremely insightful and inspired me to consider why I myself began writing.  It was really interesting that he explored how selfish writing can be because I have never thought of it that way before. But, I do agree with him. By handing a piece of your work to someone, it is saying that you have enough confidence that your writing will be worth their time and energy to read it.  Though I don’t want people to think that writing is a bad thing or to necessarily stop writing, it is interesting to think about writing as a very self-involved, egotistical process.

The Joan Didion piece was very different from the Orwell piece even though they shared the same name and a few of the same characteristics. I thought it was interesting that she talked so much about how selfish writing is because she was writing about writing. Also, it struck me as selfish that she stole the name of the article from Orwell. It was an interesting concept that explored irony of writing also without actually mentioning it.