I looked at a handful of “Why I Write” essays on the internet, and many seemed to follow the same format or similar formats: a linear progression of the author’s journey as a writer, an in-depth exploration of a few key themes, etc. While these are all interesting and valuable approaches, I wanted to find a piece that tried a different format, perhaps allowing for a different tone. Writing for Medium, Jon Westenberg approaches his “Why I Write” piece as a list of 30 reasons, allowing the tone of his article to be varied — he is serious, self-depreciating, proud, funny, and philosophical all throughout the course of the piece. He makes a lot of “boilerplatey” statements, but his piece really succeeds with the items in his list that have the greatest specificity, such as his admiration for the innovation of digital publishing or his admittance that his “girlfriend likes writers.” The listicle format also allows for ideas to be boiled down to their simplest form, which is both a blessing and a curse for Westenberg’s article. Overall, this “Why I Write” example is a good reminder that specificity of experience goes a long way.
Keeping with the list theme, I found another “Why I Write” example from a nonprofessional writer, entitled Why She Writes. This seems to be on a personal blog, and follows a similar format to the Westenberg article. There is a list of 10 reasons why this author writes, and while I’m sure they’re true for her, they come off as a bit corny in the piece. The final reason says “I write because I love writing. No reason is needed in love.” This was an interesting point to consider, but ultimately not one that should come following a list of nine other reasons why you write. The main takeaways for me with this piece were to not contradict yourself, and to maybe avoid the cheesiness. The list format is also interesting, but ultimately not where I think I’m going to go with my piece.
Finally, I looked at Rachel Wilson’s Why I Write Gateway piece. Rachel is someone I was in a student org with before she graduated, so I was excited to see the direction in which she took this piece. Rachel is definitely concerned with the “process” aspect of writing, and much of her piece is devoted to making sense and order from chaos. She uses repeated phrases as connective tissue for the whole piece, enforcing the ordered nature of writing that she finds so compelling. What I liked most about her contribution to the “Why I Write” genre was how the structure of the thing itself reflected what she surmised to be the reasons why she writes. We as readers got an insight into her process and essentially got to see it realized in the piece.
Looking at these three examples in the “Why I Write” category, I’m thinking a lot about how structure informs meaning (both with the two lists and with Rachel’s piece) and how easy it is to slip into the appealing trap of boilerplate and cliche. For my own piece, I will probably need to pay close attention to form as well as think of something original to say — no small task. I really enjoyed this “Why I Write” journey and can’t wait to see how everyone’s pieces turn out!