My life is irreversibly different than where it was when I originally read Andrew Sullivan’s Why I Blog, and, no, I don’t mean simply because it’s been a few weeks. No, I mean that now Donald Trump is President-elect. This shocked me. I’ve been in a daze for two days. Whenever I think about the election, it takes me a split second to realize that this nightmare, this that-will-never-happen scenario actually happened. Donald fucking Trump will be our President in less than 3 months.
This made me re-evaluate my life in jarring ways. For one, while I was considering switching my major to Sociology, that will no longer be happening; there aren’t any jobs in Political Science, but there certainly aren’t any jobs in Soc. Second, I realize I truly want to enter academia, now that it is, realistically, financially foolish to even consider. If the models hold true, there will be a global recession, and the last people to recover from this will be tenure-track-seeking academics. What university would hire people when their budget will be cut back and they will be faced with faculty they cannot fire? Unless the face of tenure changes, like having mandatory retirement at 65, academics will not be hired once economic catastrophe inevitably strikes.
I bring this up because what, then, is the point of my writing? If I discovered my true passion—to be an intellectual, to deal with concepts and data and counterarguments—but that passion, by all accounts, shouldn’t be realized in our current political climate, why continue honing my craft with research, papers, and blogging? Why write?
Out of the three authors, the only one that does not have an explicit answer to this question is, ironically, the one whose work I should be analyzing, Sullivan. Orwell thinks writing should have clear aesthetic value in the conscious choices of the writer as well as a (political) argument. Didion thinks that her writing is about seeing the true nature of the world, not in concepts and metaphors, but actual descriptions of the banal and the beautiful around her.
Sullivan, on the other hand, seems to analyze writing in every way but to question its purpose and existence. He sees blogging as an intimate experience, as bloggers can connect to each other via the hyperlink. Also, the sometimes-simply-receptive but sometimes-truly-helpful-authoritative audience is just a few keystrokes or clicks away from the author, adding a layer of anonymous intimacy. I, on the other hand, have an almost monastic view of writing: I lay out careful arguments over the course of days, weeks, and unless I ask for your advice, you won’t see it until I have a finished product. Thus, Sullivan’s main description of blogging scares me. I wholeheartedly embrace the truism of the thin-skinned writer, as I myself am scared of criticism (hence, my natural tendency to write in this elitist, pretentious tone). But even if blogging as a form of writing is not for me, there must be something that Sullivan offers that I can use.
It is, I think, when I combine all three that I find a truth that I can live with, namely the importance of beauty in writing. Sullivan never explicitly mentions beauty; the other two writers mention writing’s aesthetic as it relates to the meter and rhythm of prose or to the visual, colorful majesty one can but only hope to be able to one day capture in black on white on a flat page. Sullivan, however, displays the importance of beauty in the Orwellian sense, in that while Orwell explains it, Sullivan demonstrates it. His casual but intellectual prose seamlessly transitions from the history of the ship’s log to the analysis of writing to the history of “bloggers” in a way that makes me want to read it (well, almost; it’s just really long). I like Orwell’s writing style, and Didion’s is fine, however I prefer the slightly-pretentious style of The Atlantic over both of the other two. In this way, I receive the most important, resonant, unifying message in the meta analysis of the writer who refuses to meta analyze the subject on which he’s writing.
This is important to me because, as I mentioned in previous assignments (which none of you readers, unfortunately, can access), my goal in the gateway course, I realize, is to find beauty in writing. I hadn’t seen this at first, however now it all makes sense: from refusing to budge from the ruthlessly difficult Winnie-the-Pooh style, to writing a True Facts About the…-style script for my remediation project, the challenges for this course come not from posing the argument, but in how it is posed. I can already express an argument; that’s what I’ve done since 6th Grade, and I’ve continually honed that skill since then. However, what’s been missing is the beauty in my prose. In this way, it is the presentation of the material that is most important, and this practice is challenging and stretching my writing skills in new ways I hadn’t considered before taking this course.
Overall, my voice and writing content in general is different from most blogging voices: it is verbose, unendingly analytical, and flowery, approaching flowery to excess. Blogging has me practice the stream-of-consciousness style of writing, and simply by doing it enough I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to write in the traditional blog voice. That’s just not me. I’m the one giving the 5-paragraph refutation on Facebook over a single (uninformed and obviously incorrect) political opinion on Facebook; I’m the one who scours the web for polarizing social topics so I can rewrite all the old arguments in a biting, satirical style, just to try on this new hat. Both display a kind of beauty, the first in bringing back prose to an otherwise barren landscape of mindless, unimportant updates on their days and the other in bringing a little color back into the now-archaic arguments’ sallow, sunken cheeks. I think both of these are worthwhile in bringing back an old convention of writing present in Dickinson, King, Plato, Salinger, and Fitzgerald, namely beauty. Writing should not be downgraded to its basic, utilitarian function; otherwise, why would novels exist? Why would this class, this university, this world, exist? I think that the late and great Robin Williams put it best when he said, “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” Beauty. This is what we stay alive for.