“Plagiarism victimizes readers by making them unwitting receivers of stolen goods, dampening prospects of moral uplift that reading usually follows.”

Deborah Brandt’s piece on the differences between reading and writing was very interesting to me.  Like many of my classmates who have already expressed their opinions on this blog, the idea of ghostwriting seems like a “cop-out,” and a form of plagiarism in itself.  Because I agree with so many of my classmate’s blog posts, I am going to focus this blog on a somewhat minor detail in Brandt’s piece rather than her central claim.

“Plagiarism victimizes readers by making them unwitting receivers of stolen goods, dampening prospects of moral uplift that reading usually follows.”

I have always thought of plagiarism as strictly affecting the writer, for it is the writer whose ideas or words that are stolen.  While this disadvantage remains true, I now find myself questioning the effects of plagiarism on the reader.  Is the reader truly at a disadvantage?  There are no repercussions of reading plagiarized material, but there are strong and necessary repercussions of the act of plagiarism itself.  While I in no way support the act of plagiarism on the writers behalf, I am unsure if I agree with Brandt when she writes that reading plagiarized material “….[dampens] the prospects of moral uplift that reading usually promises.”  If readers are exposed to writing that resonates with them in some way, does it truly matter if that material is stolen?  Can’t the reader still experience this “moral uplift” regardless of whose original work it was?  Again, I am not saying plagiarism is good or even tolerable.  I am, however, questioning Brandt’s idea that plagiarism “victimizes readers.”

 

 

Exploring Why I Write

When I started writing my essay, I had no idea why I write.  Pinpointing one specific reason seemed like an impossible task.  The answer to this question is not something I regularly think about, and let’s be honest here, most of you probably don’t ponder this question very often either.  However, as I started writing and trying to answer what seemed like a very foreign question, I found that my essay became an exploratory tool—an internal conversation that allowed me to answer this central question.  Throughout my exploration I found that there is no one definitive answer to the question “why I write.”  Writing, I concluded, is the product of my own creativity, love of description, need for self-expression, and understanding.

 

Writing as a conversation

Last week, when the assignment was presented to bring in two pieces of writing (one in which we want to emulate) to class, the name Mitch Albom immediately came to mind. After reading Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie in eighth grade and being introduced to his style of writing, I have constantly found myself wanting to read more of Albom’s work. Granted, Mitch Albom is by no means the most intellectually engaging author I have come across, but something about his sarcastic tone and honest writing continually draws me in.

The aspect of Albom’s writing that I enjoy most is the fact that I feel he is having a conversation with his readers. Albom is very aware of his audience, and this awareness is very clear in his writing. While it may be that this ability to relate stems from his sarcasm and blunt tone that is characteristic of his writing, it is not Albom’s style of writing that I wish to emulate. Rather, it is his tone, and the ability to talk with—rather than to—his readers that I wish to emulate in my own writing.

Albom’s ability to fuel conversation with his audience is clear in his Detroit Free Press article “Bring curtain down on the LeBron James Show.” Discussing the media frenzy over James’ 2010 decision to stay or leave the Cleveland Cavilers basketball team, Albom writes, “Note to journalism students. When we celebrate investigative reporting, it’s for the issues like war crimes, nursing home scandals or police corruption. It’s not to report that LeBron James has opened a Twitter account.” Here, Albom takes the time to make a direct point to journalism students. While this note may not directly discuss James’ free agency, Albom uses it for social commentary and to relate to his audience; he is making a larger point about James and the media. This note gives the readers a look into his thoughts, and engages the readers in a conversation-like way.

Regardless of his medium of writing (books or articles) and regardless of the topic at hand, Mitch Albom is able to retain this sense of conversation in each of his works. It is this feeling of having a conversation with the writer that keeps me engaged as a reader and that I hope to emulate in my own writing.

Response to Orwell’s “Why I Write”

After reading George Orwell’s “Why I Write” I find that I am able to relate to many of his ideas; at the same time, however, I am not able to relate to many of the motives that Orwell lists for him becoming a writer.  The first idea that I was able to relate to was writing pieces that are “made-to-order.”  As a college student, I find that the majority of my writing is done based on a given prompt or assignment—there is very little flexibility in the level of my own creativity if I want a satisfactory grade.  It is this lack of flexibility that makes my writing feel “made-to-order,” as Orwell describes.

Along with understanding Orwell’s discussion of producing colloquial and subsequently uncreative writing, Orwell’s love of words also resonates with me.  One of my favorite parts of writing is using new words.  I often structure sentences around single words or a string of words that, to me, has a certain flow or sound.  While I do not change the spelling of words or make words up as Orwell often does, I can relate to the “joy of mere words” which Orwell expresses in his essay.

While I am no way a writer in the same category as Orwell and I have never written a novel, it is hard for me to imagine that all writers are “driven on by some demon.”  While there are definitely those who may be prompted to write due to an inner demon, it seems to me that Orwell is making a generalization when he makes this claim.  Why can’t people write because it is fun?  After reading this essay and realizing that the majority of my own writing is “made-to-order,” I am left hoping that, unlike Orwell, I will continue to write not because I feel I have to, but because I want to.