You Are a Writer, and You Are FANTASTIC.

I did this on my personal blog, and I thought it might be nice to do for you all here too- so here goes:

YOU- you there with the laptop or desktop computer, or phone, or other device that lets you access this post- you are absolutely fantastic. Now I know you have a paper/article/poem/story/manuscript/thesis/hieroglyphic due (how do I know that? Because we’re writing students, we always have some writing due), and I know you’re tired, and weary, and your fingers are cramping and the early onset carpal tunnel is setting in, but YOU CAN DO THIS. You have done it before; 3:00AM on a Wednesday typing up the masterpiece that would be your first Freshman English paper, months and months reading over the magnificent opus that was your Common Application Essay, 11:52PM working furiously for an 11:59PM deadline. You have done it, and you have conquered. You are a writing minor. You are a warrior.

Remember: every great bit of writing started with an empty page. And now, that page is yours. Fill it with everything you could possibly think of for that really esoteric research topic for your upper level PoliSci class, fill it with every thought, every emotion you have ever had. Create characters that never existed before you gave them life, make news and break it, and declare your scientific discoveries to the world. You can change something, you can affect people, all you have to do is tap away at those keys, burn through that ink or graphite.

You crazy writer, you have opened up a portal, each word you write is the birth of a new idea, each sentence is utterly unique to you. You create waves, you create change, you create life. Yes, you create life with that tedious summary of protein synthesis and analysis of the works of Montaigne, because it’s yours. So OWN IT.

Never apologize for your writing, never apologize for your thoughts.  Maybe it’s the coffee flowing through your veins, maybe it’s the ghost of Poe or Dickens or Angelou in your spirit, but you cannot be stopped. Your fingers skate on that keyboard, every letter is a note of a grand symphony. Shh. Shut up. Just listen. Can you hear it? That beautiful sound? That’s the sound of your mind bleeding onto a Word document. You control that blinking cursor, you make it dance for you. Push that cursor pages beyond its wildest dreams.

You are a writer, and you are absolutely fantastic.

So that was my overzealous writer’s pep talk. Best of luck to everyone working on the Repurposing Project at the moment, and to the rest of you with all your writing endeavors!

So I’m Basically Ending Misogyny

I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to find out exactly what I will be doing my Repurposing Project on (kidding). Drum roll, please…. well after a very fruitful one on one meeting, I’ve decided to repurpose an old AP Literature essay on the play Medea by Euripides. The original prompt for the essay was essentially how the theme of ‘madness’ illuminated the deeper meaning of the work as a whole, and I accidentally turned it into a bit of a feminist rant on how female characters are portrayed in literature. I thought that would be really fun to repurpose into an online article targeted at young writers about how female characters have been portrayed throughout history in literature and how to proceed when writing “feminist” characters. Initially, I was hesitant because I thought it might become a sort of dry research paper, but I think adding in a personal element about my own experiences with navigating how to write a feminist character and adding in a satirical element could make this quite engaging, not only for me as the writer, but for the audience who could potentially get something out of a piece like this. I think it will be a really good opportunity to learn more about how we develop characters and what kind effect that has on a reader. I guess my biggest questions to tackle at this point are:

1. How do I narrow this topic? There are so many different directions I could take this essay in; I could tackle it from a historical perspective, or use it as a sort of defining essay for what a feminist character is. While the many facets of this topic will all add to the greater purpose, I think it is important to narrow it down just to keep it from getting too out of control.

2. What is my best venue for this piece? If I’m trying to access young, primarily female writers, I figure an online source would be best- but which? I initially thought something like an online version of Time or Reader’s Digest, but other than me, what teenaged-to-college-aged girl reads those? Maybe an online literary journal for young writers? Maybe something like the New Yorker? Maybe even something as colloquial as Buzzfeed? There are so many options, but I guess it is a matter of picking an outlet that is going to fit best with my narrowed down topic.

So basically I’m going to end misogyny in literature and media. And here is a man to tell you why we need to do that:

Joss Whedon Equality Now Speech

 

 

HONY- Why It Works

If you haven’t seen the intermittent posts littered throughout your Facebook newsfeed by now, I encourage you- drop everything you’re doing, NOW- and check out Humans of New York (HONY ). As I mentioned, HONY has become one of the most popular viral blogs to explode in recent years, and practically everyone has heard of it. But I think it is really important as writers, and bloggers to take a look at what it is about HONY that works as a blog. For those who may not have heard of the blog: HONY started as a project by photographer, Brandon Stanton, to map out all of the people of New York. As he photographed people, he began to ask them questions and collect their stories. It is these stories of everyday people that make HONY so remarkable. He posts a photo of a random person and a small comment or snippet of their interaction with him. Viewers of HONY connect and respond to these stories on a personal and human level- which is the ultimate key to the success of HONY. There are no gizmos or flashy gimmicks to this blog, it is simply people and their real stories; blogs have to connect with the audience, well I guess all writing has to connect with the audience to be successful. That’s where the exigence comes in, I suppose. People have always had stories to tell, Brandon just finally felt like it was important to tell these stories and the audience felt it was important to read them. There is a universality about HONY, a sense that when you flip through the posts, you can find at least one person who feels the same way you do about something, or has a story that will resonate with you completely. The “composer” of HONY at face-value is Mr. Stanton, and he certainly does a phenomenal job of capturing subjects on camera and coaxing them into sharing their lives, but on a deeper level, all of these subjects, all of these people make HONY what it is, everyone can be the composer of HONY. I think a lot of blogs fail because the exigence is there for the composer, but it fails to reach relevance or importance for the viewer. The best part of HONY is that it will always be relevant, touching, funny, and universal.

Profile of a girl sitting in the grass in a park, facing right. She has a sleeve tattoo and is wearing sunglasses
“So much of who I am is because of Dr. Seuss.” Photo By: Brandon Stanton, HONY

Style of Writing

Comma, comma, comma, dash, dash, comma, semicolon, comma, period. It is a bit funny, I have been thinking about style for ages now- every writer wants to develop their own particular brand and style of writing- but I never added in sentence structure to the equation. But that is exactly how I write; I compile series of related fragments, and glue them together with conjunctions, commas, dashes, and semicolons to form semi-coherent sentences. Now that I have noticed it, I cannot tell if I am doing it on purpose or mechanically. Turning my old research paper into a “Henry James-esque” piece of writing made me really aware of how different my own style can be in my personal prose vs. academic writing. In a way, the strings of long-winded sentences I concoct in my personal work mirror his style- a bit flowery, very “literary” so to speak. But it is difficult to translate that to a research paper where the style must be concise and factual, without frill. I guess that makes me wonder if a writer can (and should) adapt his or her style to reflect the type of writing her or she is working on. I think this exercise opened me up to the idea that style can be fluid, and it is not absolutely critical to find a particular style and stick to it like a rigid, unforgiving template. Writers evolve throughout their careers, and styles can change. I think the examples I included in the Influential Writing Gallery definitely reflect my style as a writer. Playing into the theme of “why I write”, I write and read stories to get to know the inner thoughts of other people, and the examples I chose (two first-person novels, and a blog about the stories of everyday people) really contain the same stream of consciousness, long-winded writing style that I implement in my own writing. So finally, why I write. I touched on this a little bit, but I think writing is really my way of getting to know the people and the world around me. A big part of writing for me is saying the things that I can’t really voice in person, so in a cheesy way, I sort of use my writing as a sort of strong, witty alter ego to my otherwise laconic self. I look forward to exploring that a bit more in this essay.

 

Social Media Counts?

I found it interesting how many people used social media as examples of writing. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram- it never really occurred to me that “OMG just saw a baby laugh at a puppy #cute” could really count as writing. When I think of writing, I suppose I conjure up images of the traditional books, poems, articles- the stuff of Kerouac and Hemingway. But it makes perfect sense- in this fast-paced modern age,  our writing should be much quicker and more concise. Social media really is an excellent way of keeping us on our toes as writers. Word and character limits force us to get our thoughts and ideas across in a brief, yet entertaining manner. Likes and retweets are forms of instant feedback from readers. I think it is a sign of how we as writers need to evolve to keep up with the new forms of writing that come with new technology. Social media adds pressure to the budding writer by forcing him or her to produce new, concise content that is immediately judged by the public and has a viewing span of a few hours or days at most, however, it also removes pressure from the writer in many of the same ways. Social media puts publishing in the control of the writer, it provides an immediate audience, and does not have to be extremely long to be appreciated.

I also found it interesting that calligraphy was mentioned as a form of writing. Obviously, it is based on written text, but it always struck me as more of an art form than pure writing, but I suppose that is my archaic, and rigid definition of “writing” holding me back again. Calligraphy almost seems to give more weight and importance to the written word. While social media is based on rapid mechanical typing, calligraphy celebrates the beauty of the words in themselves, as each letter is painstakingly drawn out with care. I suppose one would have to choose words more carefully when writing in calligraphy because it takes so much more time to write each letter. In a way, calligraphy almost has the opposite effects as social media does on writing. I guess the whole exercise of outlining what really counts as writing really shows me how narrow my previous definition of writing was, and how the different modes of writing can really have an effect on the content itself.