Writing – what exactly is it?

Writing comes in many different shapes and forms, but I didn’t quite grasp how expansive these mediums were until our gallery exercise. The question of how exactly to define writing is nearly impossible. On one hand, there are the “obvious” forms of writing that take shape as books, articles, academic essays – forms of writing that clear and explicit purposes. These purposes range from telling stories to organizing ideas to galvanizing change. Yet many other forms of writing aim to achieve the same goals in a range of ways.

For example, the piece of art posted in our gallery that depicts a hand made up of various words and phrases is certainly telling a story and conveying ideas – even if it is not spelled out for the audience in the same manner as a short story. In this way, writing can take many forms that are indirectly aiming at touching an audience. Writing is incredibly personal – which is why I have such an affinity for studying and practicing the craft. Writing has the ability to affect change and shift thought through both a fleshed out argument as well as a single word. Yet writing has pragmatic purposes as well – as we saw in our gallery through the lists and calendars. In this way writing is a means through which we can organize the chaotic 60,000 thoughts we have in a given day.

One topic of discussion I found incredibly thought provoking was the part of class in which we asked if spoken word could be considered writing. Most agreed that the words spoken in a telephone conversation could not be considered writing, while an oral speech that had previously been written down could be considered writing. I thought about this conversation while reading Ong’s piece in which he argued that writing detracting from our traditions of Oral storytelling. I personally disagree. I think writing captures the stories that shape people’s lives. It creates a mechanism through which these ideas and experiences can be shared and cherished. The books I read growing up shaped me as a human being, and I would not have had these formative experiences without the practice of writing.

Lauren Diamond

Lauren Diamond is a Junior at the University of Michigan and a Political Science Major.

2 thoughts to “Writing – what exactly is it?”

  1. I agree with you when you say that writing helps keep storytelling alive. While the oral telling of stories is definitely important, the act of writing them down is what makes them tangible, and therefore, accessible to people as time goes on. I think it’s also interesting when you talk about how writing can evoke change, and then go on to discuss the various forms of writing shown in the media gallery. It’s definitely interesting to think about how all of these forms can influence change in their own way. For example, some might argue that an image has a greater power to evoke emotion and influence change than physically written text. Whether or not an image is considered writing is, again, up for interpretation. However, like you mentioned, the power that writing or “writing” has in progressing our society is definitely one of the reasons it is so important.

  2. Hey Lauren! One particular aspect of your post that I enjoyed was your conclusion after reading Ong’s piece; that writing is of paramount importance to storytelling as it can truly capture the story in a concrete way. It’s a statement that I firmly believe in, as oral storytelling can lose crucial details as it passes from one person to the next, resulting in the story becoming less captivating. I also like how you believe that writing can have an impact on people regardless of its form. While its form will undoubtedly have an effect on the reader, it shouldn’t be the writer’s first concern; as long as the content genuinely expresses how the writer thinks or feels, the point will be understood regardless of its shape.

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