Gossip Boy

I knew that writing this would be different than previous papers I have written because of the nature of the prompt. Different in that I am writing about myself and not a piece of literature, and I am writing on a topic without knowing if I really have an answer. So since this was a different type of paper for me, I approached starting it in an entirely new way. I sat down and made a list of everything that came to my mind when I thought about writing, Then I looked at this list and I picked out what I liked about  writing because I figured I probably write because I liked certain things about writing. So after I went through that list, I saw some reoccurring themes. I like to write because:

-I can have my own style and voice

Started writing my list on my iPod in a Jimmy John's booth

-I don’t really have to follow a form

-I am pretty good at it.

Those three things basically covered why I write. This was probably the most fun part about making the rough draft. Usually when I start a draft I dive into writing and just ramble my way through until I hit some high points and realize that I want to focus on those. However, this time I had three targets to aim for while I wrote. Writing about why I write has been immensely fun because I have been able to look at my three themes and just play connect the dots. Starting at one and watching as it ultimately is linked to the next topic. I get to explore why I like those themes and then how that directly translates into my writing. I had a different feeling throughout the writing process and I have been trying to figure out how to put words to the feeling… but I think I finally found the right one: gossip.

I use the word gossip because I feel like I have been gossiping about myself. I know, it sounds totally ridiculous, but I have been writing about things that are funny and interesting to me and I guess there is no real drama that gossip usually thrives on, but I still feel as though the general mindset has been “did you hear why Sal loves to write?” Think about it, writing is very similar to gossip, the topics and the depth may change, but the fundamental characteristics remain unchanged. Not to mention that my writing has changed, much like my own gossip has grown or shifted topics from elementary school to high school and to college. So yes, I will openly admit that this paper is one long gossip session to myself, but I look at it as a positive thing. Although, I may have to start a parallel essay on Why I Gossip.

It’s hard to write.

And I’ve found it’s even harder for me to write about why I write. When I first peered at the topic of this essay, I though to myself “It should be easy to finish a draft of this essay.” After looking at the requires, I felt even more confident that I could write this paper within a matter of hours. I’m pretty sure my overconfidence was misplaced now.

Because we were allowed to chose the format of our essays, I decided to pick one that I’ve grown fond of after taking English 325: Mosaic style writing. It’s where one takes all the elements of an argument and/or story and pieces them together, like in a mosaic. However, there will be breaks in the writing, shown by spaces and it’s not necessarily in chronological order. What I loved about this style of writing is that as you read, you discover more about the thinking pattern of the writer as well. However, I’d forgotten how difficult it was for me to compose a creative essay.

If I had to describe my style of writing, it would have to be somewhere close to that of a lawyer arguing a civil suit and a research pharmacist reporting her new discovery of a new miracle drug. It’s rather formal and stiff. I found that after the first two paragraphs, I was at a loss for what to say. It’s not easy trying to determine the reason I write. I must admit, the easiest answer I can give is that I write because I’m told to, or because I have to. That would not make a very exciting paper though.

This past week, I wrote a few sentences at a time for this essay, then put it away again. I repeated this strategy until I had an entire paper finished–well, er, as finish as a rough draft can be. As it turns, I did find another reason of why I write, and I’m rather happy with it. But it’ll take a lot of revising to make my point get across in my own writing.

Too Many Questions

When faced with this question of Why I Write, I found that it’s not easy to answer. It’s not everyday that I ask myself: Why do I do this? Or, why do I do that?  And it’s especially hard to answer these questions without a clear definition of what this/that is. At first, I was chasing a yes or no answer. It’s easy to say I write because I like to, but that leaves the question: What do I like about it? Introducing a whole slew of new ideas. So I decided to take a different approach, and start by asking myself a question that I know the answer to: What is my definition of writing?

This reminded me of an essay I wrote about essays. “Essays are used not to just communicate ideas, but to do so in a way that entices and interests the reader. An essay is a writing form that blends thoughts with that creative edge.  That’s what makes an essay a genre of its own.” And I was able to write over four pages about the genre alone.

This got me thinking about how essays relate to other genres. In fiction writing, a material can be presented and left to the reader to analyze. In argumentative writing, the author argues a point and supports it with research. In an essay, the author needs to present an idea or story and dissect it under a specific lens to get his/her point across.  Other genres can do the same thing, but in essay writing it is vital the author does so. Otherwise, the essay is no longer an essay.

As you can tell, I have a lot to say about essays. I could tell you the difference between an essay and a short fictional piece. I could also tell you where to put in a comma before a conjunction. My point is: I could I tell you a lot about writing, but there is still even more that I don’t know. And there are always more questions to answer.

On that note, I decided to limit my scope to just the questions I can answer. I’ve found that my definition of writing lies in all of those little pieces. What is an essay? Where do I put the comma in this sentence? How do I introduce this character in my story?

To answer this question of Why I Write, I need to connect all of pieces in the puzzle. Meaning, I need to collect all the information I know about writing and form an overall idea of what it means to me.  Instead of asking myself the broad question of Why I Write, I need ask myself: What is this aspect of writing, and why do I use it that way? I cannot answer Why I Write with questions I don’t know the answers to.

 

Lap One

It’s not often that someone asks me why I write, but when they do, the answer is always simple: because I love it. The next obvious question is why I love it, and the answer to this is not so immediately clear – but why?! Writing a pretty personal thing; I’ve never really been asked to explain my motives or reasons, and in a way that makes me appreciate this assignment for shamelessly pointing its finger and asking me to somehow finally answer those questions.

 

The greatest obstacle I have run into so far has been choosing a creative framework for the assignment. I have some idea about what I want to say, but being the kind of perfectionist and eternally dissatisfied writer that I am, I’m never happy simply saying what I want to say without a substantial stab at something deeper. As it stands, my first draft for the “Why I Write” essay is a crazy Pollock-y blend of red, black, and blue fonts, with certain sections highlighted in bright green and others splattered with a series of question marks and exclamation points. Each color represents my relative attachment to what I’ve written: words in black font are there to stay, words in red font are important but need major revision, and I am just so-so about the blue words. The green-highlighted sections signal that I might need to find a different home for that specific group of ideas. It helps to visually organize myself and prioritize the writing this way, and it gives me several starting points when I’ve spent more than two or three hours staring at a computer screen and feel like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing or where to go next.

 

Working through the challenge of potential frameworks is going to take a lot of time, particularly a lot of time spent in a really uncomfortable chair. It might sound ridiculous, but I’ve found that the only way I can truly focus on transferring my best thoughts onto paper is when I’m sitting somewhere really uncomfortable. The squishy red chairs at Starbucks might be great for enjoying an extra hot chocolate and a Chonga bagel, yet they don’t quite provide the most favorable conditions for cranking out thoughtful writing when your head is swirling with forty grams of sugar. When I find myself in sticky spots like this and really need to focus, I plop myself in a really hard chair (preferably in the Law Library) and/or somewhere with ridiculously bright lighting to minimize my chances of dozing off.

 

I don’t want to make any sweeping generalizations, but I would venture to guess that a challenge common to all writers is overcoming their pride for their first drafts, something I think Anne Lamott strikes gold with in her piece “Shitty First Drafts.” I particularly love how she says that “all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.” It really lifts a lot of pressure when you come to terms with the fact that any effort is a start, and you can save any judgments for later when “you fix it up…[and] try to say what you have to say more accurately” in that final lap. When I used to take notes in high school, I would be so obsessive about not having to cross anything out, not having to start a new line on a second page with two minutes left in the class, etc. But I was the only one who would be reading those notes, so what did it matter? I wasn’t being graded on aesthetics or even the contents of those notes; it took a very high dose of diligence to rid myself of that obsessive, proud habit of having perfect notes every single time, and I think I will have to apply the same Lamott-esque mindset to my first draft for this assignment: to be content with the fact that this is not the final draft, that it will get better, once it all gets out of my head.

 

What a relief.

Work In Progress

I think that the most interesting aspect of the assignment is the introspection that the topic requires. It is one thing to write about the purpose of writing in general, but it is quite something else to write about my own reasons for writing. To tackle this assignment, I have to consider my experience with writing and question myself honestly (which, I have to say, is a bit intimidating).

Before I started working on my draft, I knew that I’d have to spend a fair amount of time thinking back and reflecting on my own writing process. To be honest, I was rather apprehensive but excited about it. On one hand, it was exciting to look back at how far I’d come in terms of my writing abilities and to think about my reasons for writing. On the other hand, I was a little nervous about trying to express these thoughts.

After a day of mulling over the topic and trying (rather unsuccessfully) to create an outline in my head, I flopped onto my bed with a notebook and a pencil in hand. My specific goal was to trace my own progress in writing. A half hour later, I found myself staring at a page full of notes. In my notes, I had traced my progress in chronological sequence. When I read over my notes, I was surprised that I could see a recurring theme. I circled key words that jumped out at me and then I knew where I had to start my paper.

However, having a sense of direction obviously isn’t all there is to it. Now that I know what I want to say, the next hurdle is conveying the right message effectively. A couple of pages on, I still feel as though there is a lot that I’m missing. The problem seems to lie in the way I want to express myself. The picture I have in my mind just isn’t translating to words as well as I want it to.

I plan to work through this by revisiting all of my significant experiences with writing. I know that there are still little pieces to fit together and connections to make to form the big picture in my essay. Hopefully, I’ll find these pieces and connections through more pondering and rewriting.

An Early Update – My Inspiration

I’ve decided to post my blog a lot earlier than I thought I would because of the surprising progress I had last night while starting on a little homework. I like to multi-task, especially while working out, so while I was running I tried to think about what I wanted to write for this upcoming paper. Maybe it was the endorphins, but for one of the few times in my life it was like I had an epiphany! Okay, I probably wouldn’t classify it as an epiphany, but it was exciting to actually be so productive while I was focusing on how many miles I had left before I was done.

Map of My Ideas

I really figured out what I wanted to do when I thought about my history with writing – how it has developed through my education and what roles it has played. As soon as I got back to my apartment after running I started jotting down my ideas, almost in a map-like form (something I really never do, but ended up being really helpful!). In the center I wrote “how writing chose me” and all around I started brainstorming all the events that have come together that brought me to realizing the role of writing in my life. In one corner I wrote teachers names and in another corner I wrote about my childhood. In other places I wrote things like “career” or “future” with lines going to other places. I wrote a sentence about my faith and the role that plays in everything. There were circles and arrows all over, but I was excited to sit down and decipher it all into a coherent paper now that I knew what I was doing.

Now that I am beginning working on the paper again, I’m becoming a little more frustrated with it. The initial excitement of discovering what I want to write about is going away. Fitting together all the stories and ideas is becoming more difficult to do with words than it was with arrows and lines. I’m second guessing how certain events actually play a role in why I write. I keep thinking things like, “Maybe my eighth grade teacher  telling me I was a good writer doesn’t really matter,” or “Maybe the creativity I used while drawing didn’t actually translate to anything about writing.” It all seemed to look a lot better in picture form than on the Word document opened on my laptop screen.

After publishing this blog, I’m going to have to find some new clarity on the topic. Writing is a process for me. I can’t just sit down and write an essay all in one night, so I guess I knew this was coming. My running inspiration didn’t last long, but hey, maybe I just found a new process that works for me.

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 About Writing About Why I Write

writing, noun
the activity or skill of marking coherent words down on paper and composing text

But, isn’t writing so much more? Writing is a deeply complex relationship, between the writer and written, the slave and the master. Yes, in that order. Writing commands the writer, not the other way around.  It’s unfair, that the creator has so little power over his creation, but it seems to me a universal truth about any artistic form. The work demands the artist to render it in its own vision.  It’s exhausting and leaves the creator drained, but somehow fulfilled. A finished piece of writing brings about a sense of triumph. And, in this triumph of conquering that which so recently seemed unconquerable, I realize I am more than what I give myself credit for being. But soon, writing calls again, a beckons me back, and reassumes its position of control. I write to conquer myself, so that I may be better.

Essence of Self

Writing for me is the essence of self. Writing is more than just watching ink flow out of a pen and onto a lined sheet of paper. The physical act of writing may be a simple task but the composition of thought requires a manifestation of self, one’s beliefs, and purpose. Thoughts and beliefs comprise the quintessence of being human. Opinions are more than just the premises of an argument. They affect actions and statements. Writing involves a sense of self-awareness that people affect each other in more than just a physical manner. Taking control of writing is recognizing what you value and what you want to place emphasis on in order to affect your audience. I write to speak.

More Questions than Answers.

I don’t know why I write. By the end of this draft, I should have substantially more options to choose from. I think I’m running into the problem of hand-selecting the reasons why I write that I like, the ones I can reconcile easily.  I really don’t have a good answer and I’m not big into introspection so this assignment is going to be a painful process above and beyond the normal strife writing causes me. This feels like it’s turning into a journal entry and I don’t want my paper to sound like that so I’m going to stop myself. We’ll see how this goes tomorrow. On the upside, I am very interested in reading everyone papers!