Why I Write Examples and Analysis

I began my journey to find Why Everyone Else Writes by simply Googling “Why I Write.” Unsurprisingly, the number of examples I had to choose from were intimidatingly high, so I panicked and immediately typed “sports” behind my previous search term because that felt safe to me. This yielded an interesting article by J.A. Adande, a sportswriter for ESPN who I vaguely knew of from previous experiences watching sports. His article was titled “Why I Write About Sports for a Living.” As I read it, I realized that sports are the author’s main passion and from that the author was able to justify his actions, including becoming a writer.

I found two other articles off of the internet and found a similar underlying effect. In an essay titled “Why I Write” by Tom Schachtman, he writes about a more profound, or rather less tangible, passion that he describes as “curiosity.” He uses a number of anecdotes to explain how curiosity was so fundamental to his development as a writer and how his greatest breakthroughs in his work was due to his curiosity.

The second article I found online was written by Zetta Elliot. In her piece, her main passion relates to her difficult childhood. She writes to recover from her youth and to make sure her voice is heard.

The two MiW “Why I Write” essays I read were written by Sean Anderson and Tommy Lewis. I found that both of the pieces were actually less personal than the three pieces I found on the internet. They took more of a technical approach rather than rely on anecdotes to entertain the reader. Anderson came across as a product-minded kind of writer, while Tommy seemed to be more about the process. I was a little disappointed reading these two as I didn’t really see the passions that I saw in the other “Why I Write” essays, though I do understand why these two may have gone more technical after reading and discussing Didion and Orwell.

Why I Write Analysis

Reading through these Why I Write essays, I realize the importance of avoiding Boilerplate (that words sounds so weird if you say it a few times over). There is such potential for cliché, but I think that the essays I found avoided it pretty well using various techniques. I skimmed over a few essays by writers online and found two to focus on. Oliver Miller (who I think Casey mentioned in her comment too) narrates his process of writing his Why I Write essay. I think that readers can use this to understand his writing process more generally. Ian Welsh (another author) uses an “everything on the table” tone in his essay, and it matches his content. Both authors get specific when they talk about why they write, and I think that’s one of the keys to making this type of essay work.

The MiW Why I Write essays that I read used this same technique, among others. Keith Cline and Area Haider both document their development as writers. Area also focuses on her evolution as a reader. Both writers are very honest, and in that way, the style of these two essays (and the other two that I found online) mirror Joan Didion’s style. I think that this technique, which tends to evoke reader trust, is also really useful.

Why I Write Analysis

I read a total of 6 “Why I Write” essays before writing this blog post. Three of them strangers, three of them from previous MiW gateway students. It’s interesting – I noticed a VERY distinct pattern in the MiW student’s essays. The three that I randomly selected all took me on a two page anecdotal journey of how they first started writing, when they realized they wanted to consider themselves writers, and finally when they actually did consider themselves writers. Maybe they aren’t all like that but the three I chose certainly were. Standing alone they were all well-written and interesting, but reading them one after the other as I did they all began to blur together.

The strangers’ essays varied a bit more, but I did notice a pattern there as well. Two of the essays I read utilized the listing method of “I write because xyz. [Further elaboration]”. The third essay I read stood out the most to me, not necessarily because I liked it the most, but because it was a bit more unique in its form. The author wrote with extreme candor, to the point where it was almost information I didn’t need or want, and actually swore. *gasp*. He, too, used anecdotes, but it wasn’t an anecdotal journey as the MiW essays were. His main point was that he writes to put a halt to cliches, to force people (and largely himself) to “think independently of things that have come before.”  He embedded a silly youtube video and made pop culture references. It was a bit all over the place, frankly, but different enough that it stood out. I don’t know if that makes it a “successful” Why I Write essay or not, but I’ve dedicated the most words in this blog post to it, so that’s something.

Why I Write Analysis: Ethan Wolfe

Prior to the introduction of this assignment, the prompt for “Why I Write” appeared self-explanatory and simple to answer. And after reading the pieces of George Orwell and Joan Didion, it became even more clear that every explanation of mine to answer the question had already been categorized. While my answers may not be especially unique, that isn’t a problem. After looking through the “Why I Write” essays of other various writers and MiW students, I realized that most everyone falls within Orwell’s four categories, but reached that conclusion through different ways.

When reading through the essay of famous author Terry Tempest Williams, he lists a slew of reasons why he writes, but ultimately reaches the powerful reasoning that “I keep writing and suddenly, I am overcome by the sheer indulgence, (the madness,) the meaninglessness, the ridiculousness of this list.” He answers in a roundabout method that there is no singular, cut and dry answer to the question. Blogger Jeff Goins answered more succinctly, claiming he writes to express, understand, and remember, emphasizing the “process” identity with a personal/historical impulse.

Most of the student answers began similarly. In the essays of Jamie Monville and Lior Press (fall 2013), they both use anecdotes of formative experiences during their early years that inspired a confidence and enjoyment for writing. Both also iterate the need to enjoy the ups and downs (“the process”) of writing, and rarely mention the actual results (product) of their writing. And in the same fashion as Williams, Kristen Gilbert’s entire essay, which she titles “I Don’t Need a Reason,” claims that the answer to why she writes is simply to satisfy an indescribable and meaningless urge.

Pre Shitty First Draft :)

All in all, this was quite the shitty first draft reminder!! I hadn’t thought past the conceptualization, so physically creating turned out to be a new challenge. My initial question going into this writing was where the introduction belonged in my final product. Then I realized an introduction already implies belonging at the beginning… I suppose what I will decide is whether this piece will be the writing that readers first see before going on to my feature piece. Since it somehow morphed into a bit of creative writing, I wonder whether I will need more explicit explanation. Perhaps not… Anyway, this was quite tough for me to start. We’ve talked about conceptualizing this project for so long that I was at a loss for how to begin. To begin with, I didn’t know what tone my introductory piece would take. I began writing with a more journalistic, investigative tone only to realize it sounded way too much like what my actual product will be. So I started over – the only thing that got me going to was thinking back to why my topic matters to me. And so I went back to the night of the election and began describing. Once there, I understood the tone I wanted.

Writing a personal description of my experience during the election means that my liberal political leaning is most definitely exposed – I feel that this is necessary to the introduction, but also don’t want it to compromise my credibility when writing my feature piece. I try to show how I am aware of my own biases and the influence of my environment, but I’m unsure how this comes across. As I edit this piece I’ll work more on this aspect.

I feel that there’s a fine line between writing a somewhat investigative/research-based journalistic piece and exposing who you are as a person – this goes back to my credibility question. Once you add the knowledge of the all the flaws of personhood it becomes more and more difficult to take their word at face value. However, as my final minor in writing project it’s important to me to also explore why I felt a connection to this topic, especially one to which I wouldn’t have gravitated two years ago. When I feel stuck, it’s a great reminder that also helped me create my introduction.

To be prepared for the feature piece, I need to sit down surrounded by printed out research pieces all wonderfully highlighted and organized, and make an outline. I found that when I really sat down and focused on only creating, my writer’s block went away. An outline will aid in both my creation and my organization, so it’s a win-win. I also plan on rewatching Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story – it’s been too long since I saw the entire speech and that is another “go back to your roots” reminder.

Anna Forbes

Writing the introduction for my Capstone project was impactful because it helped me realize underlying motivations I have for writing a novel. Subconsciously, I was aware of these feelings, but I had not considered them as primary reasons for why I wanted to write a really long book (that is extremely likely to manifest into a trilogy).

My little brother is going to be the best husband (I promise there is a point to this). He grew up with three older sisters who have pounded the “Women are to be respected” mantra into his head. He can and has played every sport he wants to. He also plays guitar and piano and has an elaborate ramen bowl every day after school that he makes himself. He loves with his whole heart, something I have been given the delight of experiencing. He is a modern-day renaissance man. I love how he embraces the different ways God has made him. I don’t know if he’s had to deal with pushback from the world that says he has to fit in a box, or that cooking or hugging are not masculine. Nothing makes me angrier than thinking about the possibility that this might occur.

It is important to me that I am allowed to be a mix of person, too. I can receive joy from smashing a volleyball, singing Defying Gravity, and walking into the Clements. I used to picture librarians, or even women, as quiet and dispassionate and weak. I do not think this anymore. I am a strong woman writing about strong women.

Writing the introduction helped me solidify my primary characters. I will be writing flashbacks about Anna Pope, whom many scholars consider America’s first great female book collector (FBC), and Estelle Doheny, a devout Catholic and philanthropist who started collecting when her corrupt oil tycoon husband was convicted of a whole bundle of crimes. However, the story will revolve most heavily around Margaret and Anna. Margaret is my first minor character. She is based on two real women in my life: Margaret Carney, the Director of the International Dinnerware Museum in Ann Arbor, and Emiko (Emi) Hastings, the Curator of Books and Digital Projects Librarian at the Clements Library in Ann Arbor. They are my mentors and role models for my future career in libraries and museums. Margaret (the fictional one) is Anna’s mentor in the story. She will be written into many scenes, hopefully when she and Anna meet and as the narrative progresses.

Anna’s name is still in-process. I like the name Anna because it means “grace” and it is a family name. I have given her the last name Forbes, because it is a middle name. I originally named her Sophie Forbes, the name of my great, great grandmother, but it felt too selfish. It is also on my list of possible baby names for the future. I will report back on my final decision.

Names and motivations included, the most surprising revelation I had while writing the draft of my introduction is the opportunity fiction affords. At first, I placed the setting of Anna’s childhood in Camarillo, California, where my step-grandparents live. It did not feel right, because so much of who I want Anna to be is personified in Sylvania, Ohio, where I grew up. I modeled Ana’s childhood library and literary pursuits after my own. Everything in this snippet from the introduction is true:

She found escape and retreat in the attic-turned-library her mother built for her on the second floor. There were many places to sit: the window seat overlooking the driveway, the fluffy green rug that followed her to her college dorm room, the Pottery Barn Kids bean bag that seemed to decrease in surface area as she got bigger. There were many books to read. Her grandmother took her on a book-buying spree every birthday until she was 18. Some of her favorites over the years included The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes, the Harry Potter series, Anna Karenina, and an Introduction to Medieval Architecture (in that order).

At first, this too felt selfish and a bit annoying, but it is what I know. I know the way Anna thinks because I know the way I think. It is easy this way.

I also came to points when I felt like it was necessary to diverge from my personal story. An example of this is that Anna is 23 and already a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She is ahead of me, but I thought this necessary to build her credibility for the reader. It was a weird moment at first. I had the thought, “I can’t do this, it’s not real,” but then it became, “I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT, IT’S FICTION YAY!” I usually cringe at dishonesty, and that’s what fiction feels like to me. Going forward, I need to find a way to shift my mental stance on fiction from dishonesty to fun storytelling.