From Required to Rewarding: Why I’ve Written, Why I’ll Continue To

The act and experience of change can be one of a wide and diverse array of emotions and reactions, and my relationship with both the act of writing, as well as my written work, has gone through a variety of changes over time.  I’ve always felt comfortable writing, but at the beginning of my academic career, writing was always done purely out of requirement.  I don’t remember taking any specific interest in writing outside of school, which was the main reason that I found George Orwell’s “Why I Write” piece to be particularly interesting.  Not only did it help shed light on the fact that great writers can develop their interest in writing over time, I found it especially interesting to see what shaped his changing disposition towards the act of writing over time.  While my reasons for initially beginning to enjoy writing don’t exactly overlap with Orwell’s, Sullivan’s, or Didion’s, the way I’ve changed the way I see writing does have some similarities with all three of the pieces that I read.

I’ve always used my writing as a way to reflect various parts of me, and while I’ve never had quite the outlet as Orwell to relay a political message, or written for any of the deeper purposes that Didion touches on, writing has definitely become a much more personal act over the course of my life, which I think is the result of the realization that writing is both a vital and overwhelmingly useful skill and tool to have as I grow older, but also the realization that writing is something I’ll have to continue to do for the rest of my life, and that if I’m going to spend as much time as I do, and will continue to do, writing, it’s something that I should really take the time to invest in and learn to enjoy.  It’s not the intention for this to sound like a bleak realization, but by embracing writing, and seeing it outside of a kind of choir or dreaded assignment, I’ve come to see it in a new way, which has only helped me grow as a writer.

In Didion’s piece she states “in many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me,” and this is a mindset and way of looking at writing that I’ve really never fully embraced.  Typically, I’ve only written for very specific audiences, such as a professor, GSI, potential employer, etc…  But this way of thinking ties hand in hand about coming to enjoy writing and making it a more personal experience and practice than having it be simply something for class.  I had always been very aware of the audience that I was writing for, and in many ways I was never fully aware or cognizant of the fact that while I was arguing my thesis, I was simultaneously giving a personal representation of myself, and that often times this could reach far beyond a simple letter grade.  Orwell’s claim that many writers write out of “sheer egoism” really struck a chord with me as well, and I’ll be the first person to tell you that I can be overly vain, this acceptance that you’re writing will always say more than simply what is written on the paper has continued to shift my writing habits, style, and preparation.

Over the course of my life I’ve written primarily for academic purposes, and while my time devoted to historical research papers has typically been the overwhelming majority of any writing I do, the writing I’ve had to do for various outlets, such as controlling a club’s twitter page, writing press releases for a pep rally, or simply writing in a personal journal, have only helped me with embrace the deeply personal aspect and function of writing.  Being able to see similarities between well established and respected authors has not only given me the hope that I can continue to develop my interest in writing, but it has also helped show me that there are other successful individuals who didn’t necessarily always embrace writing, but eventually came to thoroughly enjoy it.

4 thoughts to “From Required to Rewarding: Why I’ve Written, Why I’ll Continue To”

  1. Hey Max,

    Isn’t it so accurate that many writers start off with a minimal appreciation with writing? I think that, as you’ve pointed out, a lot of our early writing comes from required, academic purposes. I think that’s why many people gain a disdain for writing. From the outsets of childhood, they immediately associate writing with homework, and, since homework is associated with annoying, most kids have a difficult time finding enjoyment in writing.

    Hopefully, during this class, we’re given the opportunity to write for a purpose outside of getting a good grade. The points system means that we’re guaranteed a good grade as long as we participate, so our drive for doing work will come from wanting to improve as writers.

  2. Hi Max!

    I really appreciated your acknowledgment of the fact that a lot of people don’t begin enjoying writing. I know that many times I have faced an assignment for a class and felt apathetic or dreaded the process. So why do we still write even if we don’t begin with an enjoyment of the craft or experience? I think you began to touch on why you still write, including the realization that it’s going to be a large part of your life unavoidably and it will behoove you to enjoy and embrace the process and art form. I think that your “Why I Write” essay will be a great outlet for you to explore why you do write and perhaps to seek out parts of it that do bring you joy.

    As Michael said as well, I think the structure of this class will help take the grading pressure off of you. I think it will be interesting to see what happens when you take the deadline and letter grade aspect largely out of your writing equation. I’ll be interested to see how your motivation for writing shifts.

  3. Hey, Max,

    I’m interested in the line, “I’ve always used writing to reflect various parts of me.” I think all of us writers do this–I know I’ve written a play that felt like each character was a part of me. And because they were all at war with each other, I felt like it was a reflection of the inner conflict within myself. I’m interested in what approaches you take to reflecting various parts of yourself, and I think this is a good question for you to be asking yourself as a writer. How do you use writing to reflect yourself to others and even you as well? I feel that writers need writing to make sense of their world, but also importantly, to understand who they are in that moment of writing.

    I’m also interested in how this class will allow you to explore new genres of writing that before lacked utility. Maybe this will allow you to find a type of writing that you feel is completely for you and you alone even if an audience can enjoy it.

  4. Hi Max!

    Like everyone else who has commented, I really loved your post. I think all of us have had some kind of transformation from writing because it is required to writing because we enjoy it. I’m wondering how and when this transformation happens. I’m wondering how you “changed the way you see writing” and what allowed that shift? I have been thinking a lot about letting myself go to express myself openly as we do in this class and in the Minor. There’s something about the vulnerability we feel when writing for enjoyment or writing to tell something about ourselves. I’m interested to know how you have overcome this, or if you have. I think this low pressure non-letter-grade environment will help all of us just let go a little bit and focus on our words and how we present them. I am excited to see how all of us progress in the Minor and if your love for writing grows (as I hope mine does!)

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