Holy Self-reflection, Batman

I am the queen of procrastination. That’s just a fact. So naturally, on Wednesday night I had to write not only my “Why I Write” essay for Writing 220, I also had to write a professional statement for my English 229 course on professional writing. Do you know how dreadful it is to just write about yourself for hours on end? You begin to judge yourself a lot and think about how you are selling yourself as a person. Plus this song kept running through my head courtesy of the Muppets (I know I am 21-years old, but the Muppets are always phenomenal).

The entire night I felt so incredibly self-absorbed. And let me tell you, that’s actually very intimidating. I spent the whole night evaluating myself and my life decisions: what makes me Louise? How do I define myself? Why do I write? What do I want to do with my life? It is an absolute whirlwind. I guess that’s what growing up is though— you have to figure out who you are, create a name for yourself, and stick to it.

Now while the “Why I Write” assignment was fun to create, my professional statement left me second-guessing myself. Allow me to give you some context: I am the only Communication Studies major and Writing minor in my professional writing course. The rest of the students come from the Business School, the College of Engineering, the School of Kinesiology, and, of course, the myriad of other majors in LSA. I look around the room and I know that I am one of the only students in that class who reads and writes 24/7. I’m not exaggerating when I say that is ALL I do. My peers want to go into the business world, the medical field, or grad school while I sit by myself saying, “I’m going to move to New York to be a writer.” That holds a lot of clout— I just exude confidence.

I think that’s why it is hard writing about my profession, simply because my profession will revolve around writing, so I feel the need to prove myself in everything I write. I put so much pressure on myself to be that much better, and to make my writing stand out that much more because it IS my life. Guess what my extracurricular activities are: yup, writing. Guess what I do in class: you guessed it, I write. Guess what I do in my journal every night before I go to bed: ding, ding, ding, we have a winner— I write.

I don’t do science, I don’t work well with numbers, and I will avoid business like it is the plague. I am just venturing down an unconventional path; I swear people suppress a laugh when I say I want to write for a magazine. But at least I have goals, at least I am striving for something, and at least I am doing something that I absolutely love to do and that comes to me as naturally as breathing.

I had these epiphanies when I was writing the two highly self-reflective pieces. I was thinking about my smart and talented peers going into all of these exciting fields, some of which I have never even heard about. And then I look at my life: I sit on my computer, I hunch over a notebook, I curl up in bed, and I write. But hey, I guess when you find something you love you don’t need much else. I mean, there’s really nothing to be jealous about, I am happy that I can look at my peers and know that they will be doing such great things and changing the world, because I sure as hell couldn’t do it in the same capacity they will. No, I’m going to stick with what I’m good at, what I love to do, and just keep writing.

Finding the Reward in Writing

Whenever I am engaging in a conversation with someone and they ask what I am pursuing as a career, I simply state, “Well, I love writing.” They look at me for a while, waiting for me to explain further, before they ask, “So do you write novels or something?” I am taken aback when this is the response and I almost feel sorry for those who immediately associate being a writer with being the author of a novel.

While I know that you do not have to be in the same field or be the same type of thinker for a piece to speak to you, it certainly does help. I have never really thought of myself as a creative writer (as in writing fiction or prose) so I cannot relate entirely to George Orwell and Joan Didion’s “Why I Write” pieces respectively. I don’t think I have ever experienced seeing the glimmer, which Didion talks about, nor can I apply all of the motivations Orwell speaks about to my own life as a writer.

All that being said, I think that not identifying with a writer who came before you is truly the beauty of writing. As a writer, you are not confined to one style or format; you can try your hand at anything, as long as you posses some motivation. Of course there were instances when I was on the same page with Didion and Orwell, like Didion’s claim that the reason why writers write is to mull over questions in order to find answers. Likewise, I agreed with one of the motivations to write that Orwell talks about— sheer egoism. As a writer you want to seem clever and have a strong presence, not to mention who doesn’t love getting published?

The catch for me with sheer egoism is that Orwell claims that writers want to be talked about. While being talked about and making a (good) name for yourself as a writer does seem like a promising goal, I feel like if you want to lead readers to a certain conclusion, you have to be in conversation with them. This is why Andrew Sullivan’s essay “Why I blog” sticks with me more than the others; the emphasis isn’t just about getting your own point across, it’s about collaboration.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been one to sit down and start writing the plot of an original novel; however, I have always kept a journal. While some of the things I write are personal, I sometimes catch myself wondering if people would care to hear what I am writing. This is, as Sullivan states, what blogging is: “[Blogging] transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.”

It might sound odd, but I love this idea of being exposed and being the truest form of myself. I think that, as a writer, it speaks volumes if you allow yourself to reach the extent of vulnerability that blogging entails. I understand that there is still vulnerability in writing a novel, but you are not presenting yourself and your raw ideas openly for (potential) public ridicule; instead, you can take shelter behind your characters and plot. With blogging, you break down the barricade and welcome the readers into your own personal life. Sullivan summarizes this point well, saying, “To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth.” So rather than thinking of writing as an individual act, blogging transformed writing into a collaborative production. Writers who blog look to others to aid them, provide their own insight, and bring other sources to the table. And in my novice writing eyes, that’s what it’s all about— having a rewarding conversation.