I would like to preface my first blog post with this: I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. We’ve been thrown into this blog with what I feel is an “intentional uncertainty.” All of us are supposed to make the blog what we want it to be. And that lack of direction seems a bit daunting right now …
I’ll begin by talking about Orwell’s piece. The thing that resonated the most with me is his quote that talked about the, “…emotional attitude from which [we] will never completely escape.” When we discussed this in class, I raised my hand and began to fight for the idea that I have indeed “changed”. I felt very strongly about this at the time; I wanted to believe that I am at a different emotional level than the five-year old version of myself that once enjoyed running around in his underwear while banging a cooking pot with a metal spoon. I wanted to believe that I have a different emotional attitude than the ignorant middle school version of myself that was convinced his parents didn’t understand him. I really wanted to believe that I have changed.
But I thought about our discussion as my day progressed, and I realized that maybe I haven’t changed. This is not to say that I enjoy running around the Graduate library half-naked on the weekend. And I now consider my parents to be two of my very best friends on earth. The “change” that confused me earlier is my maturity, or my ability to know how to behave and think in my ever-changing contexts. People change contexts as they grow and mature and this is indeed change. However, I think that my innate emotional core has not changed.
On to Didion. The thing that stood out the most to me about this piece is her very last sentence. She writes, “Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.” What is awesome about this quote is that I couldn’t agree with it more. Over the past year or so I have finally begun to realize what writing means to me. I enjoy writing because it allows me to understand the thoughts that are in my head by turning them into a tangible form. Whenever I don’t know the answer to something, I write. I make a brainstorm, I make an outline, and then I write so I can attempt to articulate my views/opinions. Writing is so much more than telling your side of the story. It’s deciding what your side of the story is. I think that “Writing,” and “English,” and “literature” should not define writing classes. Instead, they should be labeled “thinking” classes.
Another thing from Didion that I sincerely enjoyed was when she said, “…when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley I tried, with a kind of hopeless late-adolescent energy, to buy some temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forge for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract. In short I tried to think. I failed.” This is just great. So often I feel that my thoughts are insane or too abstract to be understood by others (let alone myself). And Didion describes this “thinking” process so well by talking about a “world of ideas” that presumably only the intellectual elites like Orwell and Didion reside.
This all brings me to the piece of writing I am going to bring in to class (or brought, depending on when you read this). It’s quite short, actually. Ernest Hemmingway once composed a story in merely six words. He stated, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” This speaks to the Orwell and Didion pieces because it demonstrates that meaningfulness is not correlated with the “length” of the writing. Hemmingway did it in six words and arguably had just as big of an impact. Orwell and Didion spoke about how writing allows them to figure out and express their ideas (in what seemed to be a long process). Orwell even stated that, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Obviously Hemmingway did write much longer pieces, but I find the power of these six words to be interesting.
Years ago, though, when I read this Hemmingway piece for the first time, I was angry that it was considered a “short story.” It’s six words for crying out loud. But what Hemmingway’s story now represents to me is what good writing has the ability to do. It can start a conversation, inspire a class, and cause fools like myself to dwell/fixate on the sentences on a page. Didion would agree with me (and hopefully Orwell, too) as she proclaimed, “The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind.” It’s as if the picture in my mind is that of the pre-thought, or the innate ideas I inherently hold. My “truth.” And the arrangement of words I choose are those that I hope can articulate this picture.
Hemmingway’s piece of writing is something I want to emulate because of its ability to paint this picture. It also has the same “intentional uncertainty” that I used to describe this very blog at the beginning of my post. It is this ambiguity, this deliberate order of words that has such a vague (yet distinct) meaning, that I would like to one day be able to emulate in my writing.