Finding Truth

Writing is all about conversation.  In all of my blog posts, I keep referencing George Orwell’s Why I Write, but I feel that it’s still applicable in many writing situations, especially this one.  He mentions that one of the reasons we write is for “political purpose,” with a “desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”  While it is true that we often want to influence others, what Orwell fails to touch on is that writing is just as much about changing others’ opinions as it is about formulating your own.  This is especially important in blogging, as there is an instant, direct communication method through comments.  My blog post spits out my own ideas, and then my audience has the ability to respond.

How cute.
A cat. Who doesn't like cats?

The idea of writing as a form of conversation is even important within an essay.  Ann M. Penrose and Cheryl Geiser wrote Reading and Writing without Authority, in which they brought up the idea of writing placing multiple sources in conversation with each other.  Giving two samples of writing, they showed how one piece attacked a topic by trying to find the truth, while the other simply acknowledged facts.  Even though both pieces of writing were excellent, it was clear that the piece that cited multiple sources and searched for answers was the more comprehensive essay.  This is the kind of writing that I am working towards: taking few things as fact and contrasting multiple sources as a way of finding what truth really is.

I want my writing to be more vulnerable.  I’ve been conditioned to treat outside sources as absolute facts when writing research papers.  I needed to support my argument, and so any outside sources were good enough.  However, in the future, I hope to change this.  I’m past the ignorant stage where I wrote just to spit out facts.  Now I see where writing can lead…I can be much more influential through questioning established ideals, taking ideas from various writings and placing them in conversation with my own ideas.  This is how I can be effective, and this is what I will strive for in future writing.

Words

Writing is tough.  In fact, the more I write, the more I hate it.  I begin writing with a beautiful landscape in mind.  The trees, rivers, mountains are all perfectly placed words that will touch my audience in just the right way.  There’s a happy little house sitting in the corner of my artwork.  There’s only one problem: I’m no Bob Ross (if you don’t know who he is…I’m sorry for your childhood).  My trees are upside down; my mountains are far too stiff.  I just can’t write the way I want to.  It’s as if the perfect words for my essay are locked away in a box, and I’m too immature to find the key.  Writing is a constant struggle.

Yet I’ve found that these struggles are the same reason I keep coming back to writing.  It’s that one beautiful phrase that I find in my first draft, or the perfect way I describe a situation.  It’s when I read a paragraph and know that my audience will feel exactly what I’m feeling.  If you’ve ever played golf, you know what I’m talking about—it’s that perfect, 300-yard drive that briefly disappears in the sun before landing softly on the crisp fairway grass.  You may have over one hundred other shitty, tree-seeking shots, but that one drive makes you return to the course round after round.  If only you could hit a shot like that every time, you know you could be really good.  And it’s the same with writing.  I keep coming back.

Anne Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts was actually pretty inspirational as I started writing my own Why I Write essay.  I usually feel like every draft I write needs to be perfect, but Lamott shed light on the idea that this isn’t necessarily true.  She notes that “the only way [she] can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts,” and that “all good writers write them.”  With my own Why I Write essay, I decided to take this idea to heart.  My first draft was embarrassing, but there were a few gems in there (most of those ideas are in this post).

I’m still refining my draft, still refining my ideas towards writing.  It’s tough, but my draft is progressing, and I’m hoping that whatever it ends up being is satisfactory enough.  At least no one has to read my first draft.

Communicating

We’re constantly in communication.  Sure, it’s a cliché that we live in a fast-paced world where instant communication is necessary, but that doesn’t take away from its truth: we love to communicate with each other.  Really, we always have had a desire to communicate, but have lacked the tools to do so constantly.  Today, twitter, facebook, and even online message boards give us the instant communication generations before us never had (I actually just tweeted mid-paper).  We are constantly criticized for lacking patience, or proving deficient in personal interactions, but maybe we just love to write.  Communication through writing used to be reserved only for well thought-out research papers.  Now, writing is everywhere.

In Andrew Sullivan’s blog post “Why I Blog”, he describes why blogs have become so popular.  They offer a unique opportunity to see the writer in their raw form, without much revision.  Blog posts have the ability to encapsulate exactly what the writer was thinking at the moment they posted their material, and give us a way of seeing how ideas may have developed or been destroyed.  This raw form of communication, while dangerous, is what makes blogs so worthwhile.  Readers can see the author in their most vulnerable form, and then interact with the author through a comment section.   It’s a conversation, only through writing.

Even before the internet (apparently the internet hasn’t ALWAYS existed—who knew?), writing was a major form of communication.  George Orwell discusses this in his piece “Why I Write,” as he explains that two reasons for writing are “historical impulse” and “political purpose.”  He knew why people write: to feel relevant; to feel like they can make people see the world exactly as they see it.  Writers want to influence others through their words.  Orwell had to take time to write out an elaborate essay, then get it published.  Sullivan only has to hit “submit” on a website.  Yet both are communicating through writing.

Still, as Orwell later points out, writing is not all about influencing others.  Sometimes writing is entirely introspective.  As we see through Joan Didion’s aptly titled “How I Write” essay, writing can serve the purpose of self-communication.   All of her writing begins with two pictures that “tell [her]” what to write.  She sees the world differently than others do, and can only explain it through writing.  To outsiders, it may seem as if she is writing to make some kind of commentary, or to impress readers.  Really, she is writing to understand herself.

Whether I am writing to understand myself, or writing for others, this desire for communication is mostly the reason I write.  I desire for others to hear me; I want them to understand my thoughts and my feelings; I want them to communicate with me.  Still, I sometimes struggle to effectively communicate with my audience.  They’re there, but it’s tough to figure out exactly what to say to impress them.

Michael Patrick Welch embodies the type of writing I desire.  His essay, “As if Hell Were a Real Place” is set up as a conversation with the reader, and he is constantly vulnerable and open to different experiences.  He opens up his life for the reader, and through this, is able to influence the reader’s own opinions.  Throughout the essay, I felt as if he is one of my good friends, sitting down and reciting a story about his unfortunate life.  I keep wanting to hear more; I wanted to know exactly how his life turns out.  This is the kind of communication I desire to find through writing.