Writing and Rewriting

All writing is rewriting.

My professional writing professor last semester drilled this idea into my head and, at first, I didn’t see the connection between that statement and the question of “what counts as writing?” that we discussed during class.

However, after the readings by both Ong and Brandt as well as the gallery composed by our class, I’ve found the multifaceted and totally ambiguous answer. What counts as writing is constantly in revision, which is why it is so difficult–I’d even argue, impossible–to narrow down what “counts” as writing.

Writing, to me, has always been a form of communication. The physical act of putting pen to paper or writing code on a computer is in an effort to relay a message. When I write, I have some sort of audience in mind, whether it’s myself when I’m writing in my five-year diary or my boss when I’m crafting a blog post for work. What distinguishes writing, for me, from other forms of communication is the physical nature of creation, which Ong iterates. “There is no way to write naturally.” Ong explains, “…writing is completely artificial” (81). Whereas oral speech can come about organically, writing requires agency and action. The gallery showcases this “action” in the form of videos, Google Maps, and recipes–things I wouldn’t usually think of as writing–and supports the artificiality and physical nature of writing Ong presents.

Another aspect of both Ong’s and Brandt’s readings that challenged me had to do with the idea of trust that the reader instills in a writer. Academic institutions constantly reinforce how unethical plagiarism is and the consequences of carrying out such an act. Still, plenty of students copy and paste sentences from papers they find on the Internet or even take another student’s paper and submit it as their own. Clearly, this paragraph mention in the syllabus isn’t working. However, as Brandt points out, “Plagiarism is a form of material theft but what makes it so morally egregious is that it betrays the trust fundamental to the act of reading; it interrupts the moral transfer of the good from the writer to the reader” (143). This idea of trust and lack thereof places writing on a moral pedestal and requires us, as writers, to think of our obligation to the reader, which is something that I have never considered over the 15+ years I’ve been writing.

When I write, I am telling my reader that I can be trusted. I am telling my reader that my words and thoughts are my own and that, even if they don’t agree with me, they come from a genuine place of communicating.

What I look forward to most about this course is being challenged. I believe that it’s easy to get into the habit of agreeing with others because the potential for failure exists and being vulnerable is unnatural. I feel that the minor will challenge me to take my preconceived notions, my vulnerability, and my passion and create work that provokes others to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

Caroline Rafferty

Caroline is a Lauren Conrad aficionado with more clothes than sense. Currently suffering with a severe case of wanderlust and wondering why more people don't like jicama, Caroline is an extremely gifted napper who is a Communications major. Between reading "Into The Gloss" and listening to her "rbf" Spotify playlist, Caroline writes about anything that comes to mind. Anything.

2 thoughts to “Writing and Rewriting”

  1. Caroline: In our world, I could not agree more that the very definition of writing continues to change over the course of time. As you made a great point of, Ong believes that the act of writing is one that does not come naturally to a given person, and this has been proven true over the course of humanity. In my opinion, this has to do with the incredible and inherent artificiality that circles around the rules of writing. While there are so many ways in which we can dictate our thoughts through writing, we still often follow the relatively arbitrary rules that are attached to grammar, punctuation, and text communication. I also found your thoughts on the trust that readers invest in a given author to be very thought provoking, in the sense that almost no one goes into a given paper thinking “I bet this person plagiarized/lifted this work from elsewhere”. It is at this point in your post that I found myself going back to how damaging plagiarizing can be from a moral standpoint, both inside and outside of the classroom.
    Thank you for your post, I very much enjoyed reading it!

    1. I find it interesting that you were really taken by the idea that a reader instills a certain amount of trust in a reader, considering your background. I feel such a profound sense of responsibility, especially when writing emails to other organizations or posting on an organizations twitter or instagram. I feel like the entire reputation of my org is on the line when I hit submit or send or reply. In addition, any work I do regarding sensitive matters, like sex, virginity, race, class, especially when personal anecdotes are involved, is strongly linked to a personal truth. It seems like the audience is banking on this concept of trust for them to be open to understanding and to a certain extent, agreeing, with what I am saying.

      Have you submitted a lot of personal work to a public platform? It’d be interesting to understand where our views on trust and writing stem from, how strong that fear is, etc.

Leave a Reply