Developing as a Writer

I didn’t automatically link these pieces to Sullivan’s. However, I did link Ong to Orwell and even a little bit to Didion. Ong stating that grammar rules live in the unconscious was similar to Didion’s metaphor, that grammar is a piano she plays by ear. Both pieces seemed to suggest that writing is a compulsion, whether it’s a a certain style (Orwell) or the act in general (Didion). While Ong states that speech is unconscious, whereas writing is artificial, he does claim that it is “utterly invaluable and indeed essential,” which speaks to this drive to write.

Orwell resonated with me, more so than Didion’s piece. We both wrote at young ages. I wrote more when my little brother was too little to play with, so that isolation was also similar. Unlike Didion, I think my connection to writing is abstract. Though I want to tangibly capture those words, I find much of my interest in writing is related to my interest in thinking and theorizing about mundane things, usually though a sociological perspective. I think Orwell touches on a similar idea when he says he shaped a continuous story, like a diary in his mind. Writing is such a mental thing, that the cross over between intangibility and tangibility is an interesting one. I think it compels me to write, if anything so I can remember my thoughts. I found it odd that there wasn’t a significant focus on other works being inspiration for why Didion or Orwell wrote. When I read a good piece of writing, I am inspired to write.

Side note: The first story I remember writing was about a zebra. Considering Orwell wrote about a tiger, I wonder if animals are very common subjects for children to use.

In terms of this semester, I’ve discovered that my definition of “developing as a writer” is very grounded in ideation and executing ideas efficiently. I’m taking a seminar in professional writing through DAAS and the professor is anal about grammar. While grammar is obviously a component of effective communication and execution, I know I will barely grow as a writer in that class. I will always be too focused on fulfilling requirements and less on my argument. So for me personally, developing as a writer is about being uncomfortable with a new genre and receiving a lot of critical feedback (which NEVER happens in my seminar). That’s probably why I don’ feel like that much growth occurred from the repurposing draft to the final. Criticism really gets me to look at what I like and why I like it. Or even how to work within the constraints of X suggestion, or the constraints of both X and Y suggestions. I did a lot of this in my creative writing class. Revising a poem is one of the hardest things I have done at Michigan. But I will never forget how happy I was with the revisions, considering a week before I was too attached to remove more than two lines.

And that’s how I know I’ve developed as a writer. Attachment. I used to be so attached to words, sentences, whole paragraphs. Revision felt less like a tedious process, and more like a painful division between mother and child. But with the repurposing project, I felt much more comfortable with removing things. Most of the attachment I feel now is about being unwilling to sacrifice something for the sake of time.

Lastly, I measure how far I’ve come by something my creative writing teacher told me. It’s quite cliche. But she said the goal of that class was to take a common or universal idea or feeling or subject and find a new and unique way to say it. I try to make sure my pieces do that. My repurposing was okay. I do think I made the familiar strange by talking about a staple like tailgating, and bringing in late 1800 controlling images of race. I like my remediation idea about concessions. It’s an interesting framework. It’s something that came to me last second, and that seems to inspire a lot of my writing. If it’s sudden and improvised, it’s probably gold. Sorry this was so long.

Kennedy Clark

Kennedy is a Sociology major with an ineptness for exposition and an excessive love for Michigan basketball and pretzels.

2 thoughts to “Developing as a Writer”

  1. I really liked what you said about criticism and feedback being a key component of growth as a writer. I too sometimes become incredibly attached to words or phrases, and sometimes I am unaware of whether or not they are helping or hindering my piece. Thus, getting another pair of eyes (or two) to dissect the meaning of the piece and help me figure out what to add or remove was really helpful in my development as a writer. I can really relate to what you said about revising a poem in a creative writing class – as this too was my most challenging revision process to date. However, so much can change from revising or removing one line.

  2. One of my first stories was also about animals, I wrote about dolphins. I think that a lot of children write about animals since it’s one of the first things kids learn about and what a lot of children’s books are about. I’ve also had positive experiences revising poetry. I used to be so attached to my images and phrases because I read them so much that they seemed perfect. After I let go of them I was able to better say what I meant and better convey the right images. I think my creative writing class has helped me so much as a writer and it sounds like you had the same experience.

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