I found it interesting that in Didion’s piece, “Why I Write”, she discovered her passion for writing by mistake. Never a confrontational person or one to impose her views upon others, she claims that no matter what, “there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.” She then goes on to discover and describe herself as a “writer”; as a person who uses the act of writing as a means of understanding the world, what she herself is thinking, what she sees and what it all means.
In a way, her reasons for writing are quite similar to mine. I have found that I do my best learning not through studying, filling out worksheets or doing homework, but rather by writing essays. I suppose this is the rationale behind the “blue book” exam but aside from that, writing helps me to further understand and grapple with academic material. Outside of an academic context where I am required to write, however, I do not find writing to be an enjoyable or leisurely activity. The love-hate relationship that I share with writing stems from the double-edged sword that it possesses for me. On one hand, I have always been a talented writer who produced works that far exceed those of my classmates and the expectations of my teachers. At the same time, because of such inherent talent, the perfectionist inside of me slaves over each paper I write so many times that I become sick of reading it and, in turn, become sick of writing. Of course Orwell, however, would contend that such a bittersweet relationship is a perfect example of the “horrible, exhausting struggle” and ‘pain” that all writers experience—an example of the “demon” that all good writers face in completing a work of writing.
Didion also talks about her great interest in the concept of grammar/word choice and what meanings arise from such textual manipulations of sentences. She refers to grammar as “puzzle pieces” that, depending on where they are plugged into the sentence, can drastically alter the sentence’s meaning as well as the reader’s perception of the piece.
This concept connects with one of the readings that I have selected as a piece whose style I would like to emanate. I have long been interested in the writing style of journalists/critics in both the automotive and athletic industries. I admire their casual, informal style and how they manage to maintain/strike a balance between witty commentary and informational detail. The piece I chose is an article/review of the 2013 BMW M5 written by Car and Driver magazine’s Aaron Robinson. I enjoyed reading his article because of the informal tone he uses in describing his experience of driving such a “four door supercar.” Throughout the article, witty side notes are peppered into each paragraph (“the car runs enough software to land it on an asteroid”, “it is an executive express, a velvet-wrapped hammer, a shark in whale’s clothes.”) in a way that keeps the reader interested and engaged amidst the article’s equal amount of relatively dry, technical specifications and engineering jargon. In this case, Didion’s concept of word and grammar choice comes into play.
While reading academic works can often times feel like a chore, reading articles like Robinson’s, at least for me, conjures interest and a willingness to learn and read on by living vicariously through his experience with the car. From Didion’s perspective, such writing helps readers understand what is desirable and admirable in a car while Orwell would admire the article’s overarching objective of persuasion towards favorability of the car.
With all of this said, I do not despise writing as it is difficult to dislike something that you’re very good at. At the same time, however, the kind of writing that I prefer to both read and write is that of informal opinion, similar to that done by blogger, Andrew Sullivan, more so than that of Orwell or Didion.