A Precursor to an Answer

In preparation for answering a broad question– Why Do I Write?– we have turned to a variety of others that have answered the question before us, which I would like to partially respond to. In doing so, it might look like I am entering the conversation (which wouldn’t be entirely wrong), but really, for now, it’s closer to me dipping a toe into an ocean and calling it swimming.

Out of the three texts we looked at in class to help us answer this question– “Why I Write” by George Orwell and another of the same title by Joan Didion, and “Why I Blog” by Andrew Sullivan– I definitely connected to Didion’s response the most but I pulled the most concrete and relevant explanations from Orwell’s.

Didion seemed to pull some concepts from my own head. Namely, the idea that she doesn’t think up a plot and run with it so much as seeing an image and being unable to leave it alone, prodding it with questions and demanding an explanation for its circumstances and appearance. Of one such instance she points out that,

“Had I known the answers to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.”

I LOVE this idea and its phrasing. It was the image and the questions that she made up about it that compelled her to write. I completely connect with that. I have had similar experiences of seeing something– not even something strange or out of the ordinary– that my mind wouldn’t leave alone; it needed to create a new reality for it to exist in that would explain why it was and how it came to be and where it was going and the way others would interact with it. Some people get songs stuck in there head, but I get images and lines of monologue lodged in mine.

Didion also claims at one point that,

“I knew I couldn’t think.”

Obviously, this isn’t true in the way that one would immediately assume, but it made perfect sense to me and in the context that she used it in. She thinks differently. She sees the world in unique ways. She lets the world speak to her first and then she responds to what she observes with further questions and stories of her own rather than attacking her landscape and imaginings for answers.

Orwell, on the other hand, lists 4 main reasons that he writes:

“Sheer egoism… aesthetic enthusiasm… historical impulse… [and] political purpose.”

Save for the third point (which did not resonate with me nearly as much as the others), I definitely agreed with the sentiment behind each of these explanations. I won’t lie; I write for ego. Recognition. Gloating rights. To be taken seriously. I imagine myself on talk shows and NPR, an inspiration on social media, discussing how I possibly managed to come up with such brilliance.

And I won’t apologize for that ego. I’m not the first to dream of fame and I have no shame in admitting I want it to. What I would do with that, though, is more important and brings me to his last reason about politics.

One of my goals in writing is to be as supportive to those that are disadvantaged in society. I want to be an ally and part of a solution that calls for increased positive representations of those that the elite ignore. I want to write human stories about those outside of the Norm– black girls in wheelchairs and south Asian bisexual men and poor kids in rural Colorado that don’t feel they fit into any gender role and they don’t know what to do about it. I have political motivations but I’d like to think that it’s because I want to be fighting the good fight and not because I want to be different or edgy. I wish these topics and depictions weren’t even considered in this way.

Aesthetic enthusiasm just makes me smile though.

I like words. I like those words about words. I like sounds and phrases that I can chew on and roll around and say slowly. I dream of writing lines that make someone put down what they’re reading and walk away for a minute because they can’t believe someone said something about that in such a perfect way and they have to go digest it some and tweet it and plan a new tattoo around the words. I want to put things in a way that readers wish they’d put the same thought into the same words in exactly the same way because it was just that good. Oh look, we’ve circled back to ego. How fitting.

When it comes to Sullivan, I feel I have a lot less to say. I don’t blog in the colloquial sense; I am on tumblr which has a basis in blogging but, for the most part, has become quite a bit like twitter with sharing clever insights in a concise and informal way. I also don’t have too much interest in journalism on a personal level; I don’t plan to make a career in it, at least. At the same time, as a citizen of the modern digital age, I understand the need to convey thoughts with a sense of expediency. Weigh in quickly, jump into the conversation before it’s forgotten. I do this more on Facebook than anywhere else, but not often even there. I don’t like to create arguments online where it can be difficult to gauge the tone of those you’re speaking with. It’s an interesting sounding board for ideas, but it’s often also frustrating and, just, not ideal.

I… did not mean to write this much. Gosh. Kudos to anyone that stuck with me though this stream of consciousness ramble for this long. Have a gif of Anderson Cooper and some french fries as a thank you.

anderson fries


New Media Writing

I was describing the minor in writing to a girl I met at a group interview today. After describing the freedom the minor gives students to choose topics that interest them most, she said the minor sounds interesting but, “I am not very good at writing.” I proceeded to explain to her the unique approach the gateway course for the minor has facilitated my writing development.

The gateway course provided me with resources such as readings, video documentaries, peer evaluations and perspectives, and speaker series with professional writers. Each resource has given me a different point of view on what makes “good” writing. We read “Shitty First Drafts” by Lamont where I discovered that professional writers face the same struggles that I do in writing. We also read “Why I Write” by Orwell and “Why I Blog” by Sullivan. It was great to see what inspires them to write and it challenged me to explore the same question for myself, with a new perspective.

The class was an advocate towards feedback and group discussion. My classmates helped shape my writing into my best work. Not only peer corrections but group discussion aided in my writing development. My classmates have exposed me to new perspectives on writing.

What I enjoyed most about this class was the flexibility to engage in topics that interest me most. Through our semester long project I was able to work with an argumentative essay I had written on Cape Cod, ““Save Our Sound”. Cape Cod is my favorite place on earth and I was able to address multiple audiences on the subject of preserving its beauty. My passion for the topic allowed my final work to be some of my best.

What really hooked the girl I was describing the minor to was my explanation of writing in new media. I told her that you didn’t have to be “great” at writing. In fact, in exploring new media writing I took an essay I had written and re-mediated it into an imovie! She was fascinated by this assignment.

Sweetland’s Minor in Writing does an excellent job of accepting you as writer, wherever you are in your development, and facilitating growth and improvement.


blogging and repurposing

“A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”

I feel like this quote sums up the work blogging has done for me as well as what separates it from other genres, as well as what separates the other genres from each other. Blogging differs in its casual demeanor and informal tone. Bloggers write to appeal often to an audience who wants to read blogs because they don’t sound like the New York Times or Seventeen magazine. They are more personal. During class blogging thus far, I have read a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts from my peers, casual and more in depth. I enjoy reading blogs because the voice evokes a personality of a conversation with a friend, rather than an esteemed professor or columnist. I feel like I can write back and that my opinions are more valid, even if the topic is the same. Blogging makes me question credibility as well, simply because it is easy to. Hyperlinks and photographs and already being on the internet while reading a blog makes me a more invested reader, wanting to know more, and being able to find out more about the topic at hand.

My repurposing project is turning a rather fluffy magazine article into an informative, very business oriented piece for the Wall Street Journal. Blogging has helped me realize what I need to do in terms of audience. Since, in blogging, whether there is personal motive or the need for extra points, I want people to respond and be interested in what I have to say. Therefore, if I really wanted people to read things, I would tailor my blog posts for a specific audience. This need for specialization has made me think more about the specialization I will need in my repurposing project. I have to figure out what business people want to hear/read about, what vocabulary, what graphs, etc. I feel like blogging has better prepared me for this project…And that it might be kind of fun…

Bloggin’ Girl.

Moment of honesty: blogging is still a process for this girl. While I blogged for my study abroad experience this past spring (separately for my program requirements and for my job), I still am not an effortless blogger. Sometimes I feel Andrew Sullivan must just spit rhymes in the form of blogs with such ease. After perusing some of your blog posts for this week, Joe’s three-prong blog characterization really struck me. His first prong reads, “Blogging is instant.” Yes and no, Joe. Yes and no.

In “Why I Blog,” Sullivan goes to great lengths to explain the immediacy of the blog form – that words can be disseminated across the world in the span of seconds. But it is seconds… not a second. It’s an almost-instant… not an instant. I feel like my evolution of blogging is like jumping from rock to rock in a fast-moving creek. (Hold on to your seats because this may get deep.) It’s like the water is opinion, judgement and, ultimately, the eyes that skim my work. The rocks are moments of writing clarity, where I feel like I’m expressing what I want to say in the way I want to say it, and at the moment I want to make it known. Isn’t that what all this is about? Making your thoughts known, yourself heard?

Blogging is not an instant act for me. It involves vocally organizing my words, forming a unique thread or theme to weave through each post, using sentences to communicate that theme and tying up loose ends or underdeveloped ideas to finally post it in cyberspace. This is far from instantaneous. My creative juices need to stretch and get warmed up before the World Wide Web is going to have the freedom (and right, quite frankly) to judge my words.

Moving forward with the re-purposing and re-mediating projects, I know this will still be a process. I know that I need to allow for time to rip my apart work and put it back together.

I know I have to give myself the opportunity to land on as many rocks as I possibly can.

Garnet Canyon – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

One of the purest places on Earth.


Blogging Evolved

Blogging has never appealed to me. My writing experience and style is rooted in more traditional journalism and other research-based writing. Naively, I thought that since the tenets of blogging were antithetical to more traditional writing, there was no place for it. Yet Andrew Sullivan makes a great case that the “free-form, accident-prone, less formal and more alive” aspects of blogging are to be embraced rather than be frowned upon. Sullivan admits that blogging cannot “provide permanent perspective” like more traditional forms of writing do, but this new form still has carved out an important niche.

Sullivan hails blogging as being “rich in personality.” Sure, arms of traditional writing such as reflective pieces, personal narratives and poetry could be personal, but a blog’s presence on the web and the bond a blogger has with readers is certainly unique; this writer-reader connection is unprecedented. After reading Sullivan’s piece, I have a restored appreciation for blogging and its presence as a form of writing.

Moreover, Sullivan’s piece seems to be a fitting evolution of what George Orwell and Joan Didion wrote in their respective pieces. Orwell’s relationship with readers is rooted in his own motives to write: “sheer egoism,” “aesthetic enthusiasm,” “historical impulse,” and “political purpose.” All of these motives deal with either the writer’s self-satisfaction or making an impact on the reader. Joan Didion also wrote about the personal stake in her writing, saying that it is “the act of saying ‘I.’ What motivated Orwell and Didion to write was their own gratification and the gratification of influencing others. In Sullivan’s world of blogging, those two spheres of motivation come together in a more direct relationship.


What I Learned

I learned from George Orwell that the events I encounter (and will encounter) in my life dramatically influence the ways in which I express my thoughts and ideas. I found that the experiences that each of these authors had, have heavily factored into the work they produce. However, what I found most interesting were the four “great” motives for writing that Orwell says, exist in different degrees in every writer.

The four great motives are: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.

As I read each of the three readings, George Orwell’s, “Why I Write,” Joan Didion’s, “Why I Write,” and Andrew Sullivan’s, “Why I Blog,” I compared myself to each author, and found similarities between their writing habits, and my own.

These four motives made me question my intentions, and why I truly want to become a journalist. Day-in and day-out journalists are faced with the daunting task of eradicating personal biases and remaining as impartial as possible. This is one task I struggle with on a daily basis.

One statement that stuck out to me in particular stated the effect that an individual’s life stage and experience has on his or her work. To me, Orwell believes every individual’s experiences have shaped his or her views in one way or another, which subconsciously causes him or her to impart innate personal biases.

Thus, in order to fully understand a writer’s perspective, a reader must be sure to question how and why the author derived the content he or she created. I, like Orwell, believe you cannot fully grasp a writer’s work without knowing his or her background or reasoning.

Orwell says, “I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development;” this is something I firmly agree with. In addition, I believe a writer, regardless of the platform he or she chooses to use, must ensure that the content disseminated is presented in a way that will allow a reader to fully understand the context and tone at which he or she is trying to establish.

Thick Skin Necessary

After a few weeks of regular blogging, I am not sure if my style has really changed all that much. I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing, as my understanding of this form of writing is still essentially the same as it was at the commencement of this class. While Andrew Sullivan’s provided me with the challenges of blogging, mainly the high octane nature of the art, it really didn’t cause me to reevaluate the reasons as to why I blog. Although, the more that I invest into blogging, the more I respect those who are able to do this for a living. Obviously I respect the tremendous amount of work that goes into constantly finding the latest story, but the level of scrutiny that bloggers are constantly under is borderline ridiculous. Read More

Why I Don’t Blog

Andrew Sullivan purports an interesting perspective on blogging.  Some statements seemed to resonate with me as someone who is trying to become a blogger instead of just a traditional academic argumentation author.  He concludes that blogs are

“more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive.  It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”

This seems initially liberating.  What a treat to escape the harsh criticism of an editor or a professor and to just write what you pleased instantaneously… and then you can say whatever you want and it doesn’t really have to be all that correct because there is an apparent symbiotic relationship between the blogger and the reader.  Say whatever you want! It’s liberating!  Except… it is on the internet.  Forever.  And ever, and ever, and ever, and you cannot delete what you said in your moment of a lack of emotional control.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there Andrew Sullivan.  I was just thinking about how great it would be to shake the traditional format of writing for a liberating form like blogging.  No thanks.  As a political science student heading out into the field of law and eventually politics, nothing seems more unappealing than posting a political rant on the internet that can be pulled up on my campaign trail.  The argument that blogging is a free open space of chaos does not entice me from leaving the safe, patient research of a traditional argument.  I need to be able to hold to my commitment of my argument, and nothing about an in-the-moment tirade sounds like a good idea.  Blogging to me seems like posting a drunken picture of yourself on Facebook at a party with a red Solo cup in one hand and a fifth of Southern Comfort in the other while dancing on a table.  Sounds like fun at the time… until your job application gets denied.