As I sit in the reference room reflecting on the “what counts as writing”, I can’t help but think what the person sitting next to me thinks about the same question. She’s currently drawing chemistry molecules, yuck, and most likely considers that writing. I consider that more of a foreign language, but to her, writing a blog post could seem like more of a tedious task instead of writing. Whatever the case, it goes to show how versatile “writing” is.
Throughout the whole process of deconstructing what writing means, most striking to me to me was the emergence of shorter, more digital writing. Gone are the days of essays being the only form of writing. Enter tweets, Facebook statuses, headline writing, Instagram captions and more. I found this shocking. As a person who uses Twitter for unhealthy amounts of time I, honestly, never thought of it as writing until now. Rather, I just thought of it as another task. Reflecting now, I see writing a Tweet almost as difficult as writing an extended essay. With a long paper, a writer has nearly seven pages to get their point across. On Twitter, you have 140 characters to get your whole idea across. Think of condensing your seven-page paper into one or two sentences. It’s not easy.
Next, this activity really made me think about the changing culture of humans. That is, of course, the shortening of attention spans. No longer does someone want to read long-form piece of journalism. Rather a reader would like to scroll through a Buzzfeed list. No longer do people want to read books. Rather they want to read Tweets. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, although as someone who is trying to enter the world of journalism it can be a tad disheartening, but rather it goes to show what writing is evolving into: Short, simple, clever posts.
It’s not to say that long-form is totally dead or that people don’t read longer pieces. Instead, perfecting the practice of “short writing” such as writing headlines or captions is the key to success. If a headline or caption doesn’t catch a reader’s eye, there’s a certainty that they wont read it. However, if the caption is there, perhaps the long-form piece will get read. I dealt with this all summer at the New York Daily News as a sports writer. The stories I wrote nearly always hovered around 500 words, which can be long to people. But what the News mastered was the art of writing titles. A top every story was an engaging headline that drew readers in. In fact, there a job at the News’ sports desk dedicated to only writing headlines. That’s how important it is in this day and age where Print Journalism, as bleak as it sounds, is slowly dying.
Writing is everywhere. This activity shows that. It’s versatile and that maybe selling writing short. Writing can be used to become organized, get good grades, learn, as a hobby, as a job, to heal and many, many more ways. For now, though, what used to be known as writing is certainly changing for better or worse.