Too many decisions.

In hindsight, I wish there had been more arguments in class last week as we were creating our master list of “what counts as writing.” All I can think to myself now is: a mural does not count as writing.

I regret not having said something in class; this is just one of those instances where I don’t realize I’m itching to say something until the moment has passed.

I guess this is the part where I make my case for why murals shouldn’t count as writing. A mural or an image in the context of what we discussed is used as a form of communication. And while all writing is communication**, not all communication is writing. Books and plays can communicate to me the plot of a character’s life or a larger symbolic meaning, the notes I take in class tell me what the lecture was about, and even the sticky note on the fridge can remind me that I’m out of milk. These were all acceptable to me as things that count as writing, mostly because they have one vital characteristic in common: they are words — written or typed or short-handed words.

Murals and other such images are not words; they are images that potentially communicate some sort of message, but they are not written.

After coming to this somewhat fragile conclusion (in the sense that I’m content with it myself but don’t expect others to be), I wondered where the Morse code fit into the mix. What about ancient hieroglyphics? On the seemingly fluid spectrum of what counts as writing and what does not, Morse code and hieroglyphics seem to be closer to counting as writing than murals are. Perhaps it is because they are symbols that denote a word in spite of the fact that they are not words themselves?

Clearly I’m too indecisive a person for this.

Yet in the grand scheme of things I feel like it doesn’t really matter what counts as writing and what doesn’t fit the bill. Writing is this impressively dynamic, democratic form of speech and communication, and whether I wish to write novels, articles, tweets, or even murals, I’ll just be glad to live in a country where the right to write (see what I did there?) is mine and everyone’s.


** Unless someone can comment and tell me some sort of writing that isn’t a form of communication, in which case I’ll apologize and also be thankful for because I can’t think of any at the moment.

Brie Winnega

Hey, I'm Brie. I'm an English major who's addicted to reading, writing, and ponytails.

3 thoughts to “Too many decisions.”

  1. Your points about whether murals can be considered writing simultaneously confused and fascinated me. In my blog post, I unhesitatingly and maybe too briskly defined murals as a form of writing, because they communicate some sort of point. I did not think to delve deeper as you did and consider whether “communicating a point” is really the shared characteristic of “written” material. Is there even one shared characteristic of all written material? Is communicating a point an impertinent characteristic of writing at all? The questions you’ve asked have spurned so many more questions in my head..

    Just as I was beginning to get frustrated with the conflicting definitions I was forming, you reassured me that in the end, defining writing isn’t as important as recognizing the freedoms writing allows.

  2. Hi Brie,

    I appreciate and understand the struggle you were having defining murals as writing. If we are to do so it seems to allow for a much more abstract and less contained definition of writing. Similarly, I am not sure if I would categorize a mural as a piece of writing in any other setting, but doing so is definitely food for thought. I love your line “Writing is this impressively dynamic, democratic form of speech and communication,” such a beautifully written and well constructed sentence! Your ideas are very honest in their uncertainty and I very much identify with your thought process.

  3. I completely agree with your opinion that writing falls under communication, and therefore there is no form of writing that is not a form of communication. In regards to the classification issue, I personally believe that all writing must utilize sort of well-defined written language. If we operate under this assumption, then murals would not be considered writing (because the language is not well-defined), and morse code and hieroglyphics would be considered writing. I think this assumption is reasonable, but it also might stem from my inherent desire to eliminate uncertainty. However, even under this uncertainty there is still a grey area; for example, how do we define a “well-defined written language?”. I think classification of things as writing or not writing is an interesting topic that will always include grey areas, but personally I like operating under certain assumptions to limit them.

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