Most of the time, my mind is being invaded by both necessary and unnecessary thoughts and it makes it hard for me to distinguish between the two. To free myself from thoughts that reestablish past events and thoughts that drift away to what the thoughts of others are like. I write to establish and understand my thoughts. Joan Didion’s article, “Why I Write,” spoke directly to me. While reading, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means,” an epiphany overcame me and finally I understand why starting the writing process is difficult for me, but ending it is a release. It is a release from confusion, and once I complete my writing, or my thought, what’s left behind is a feeling of calmness.
After reading the three “Why I Write” pieces, I feel like I gained some insight into my own reasons for writing. I’m sure I had thought of these things before, but reading them from other writers brought substance to these ideas. The most profound essay, in my opinion, was Didion’s “Why I Write.” It summated the purpose of writing and it portrayed an exciting sense of mystery and optimism. However, her reasons for writing came with another sense of challenge and stress, which was illustrated in both Orwell and Sullivan’s reasons for writing.
Didion ends her essay by saying “…had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.” She explained how the creation of characters, typically based on real places and people, led her on a sort of investigative path. I believe that writers have some question or emotion that motivates them to write. Even when there may not be a question initially, they arise through the process of writing because of its reflective nature. The most unique quality of writing is the reflection and consciousness involved in producing a piece. In a conversation, words come out of thin air, with little or no cognition. I rarely sift through words when I’m talking, and when a conversation is over, it is difficult to recollect the exact words I used. Moreover, the progress of the conversation is not tangible. The words dissipate as fast as they are produced, and there are few remnants of what was said. In writing, however, we are able to make stylistic choices and explore many options to best portray an idea. As Didion said, “All I know about grammar is its infinite power…the arrangements of words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind.” This was an extremely exciting and fresh idea for me. I had always thought of grammar (specifically grammar being taught in a classroom) as a miserable burden. The dry grammar lessons were torturous enough, but the fact that I had to follow these rules seemed oppressive. Didion’s point made grammar seem not only important, but also crucial for creativity. In my past writing courses, I rarely edited down to the level of word placement. I did the quick spell check, then checked for basic grammatical errors, and looked at the piece in its entirety. I would check for shitty word placement, or things that just sounded weird, but I’ve never actually interacted with the words. I think this concept could really propel my writing ability and spark more passion when I write.
Writing can also be an intimidating process, as illustrated by Sullivan and Orwell. Sullivan said, “Writers can be sensitive, vain souls…” This, combined with Orwell’s idea of all writers being egotistical, makes writing feel very threatening. As Didion said, writers basically say “listen to me” when they create a piece. I agree with all of these statements, because they reflect how I feel when I write. Until last year, I dreaded peer revision. I was overly sensitive and thought I knew what was best for my writing. This hypersensitivity to the critique of others hindered my writing. Gradually, I realized that the input of others is extremely useful and my writing always benefits from a variety of perspectives. I feel like Orwell may exaggerate the selfishness of writers, but he is definitely on the right path. I had a professor tell me that we write because we believe we can do a better job than others, and that we want to fill a literary void with our own ideas. I believe it is important for writers to be somewhat selfish. I rarely consider whom I am writing for. I write what I find interesting, inspiring, controversial, or creative and if it finds an appreciative audience, all the better. Writers can be selfish because technology has made writing a more accessible craft. We can find a forum to disperse ideas all over the Internet, and with the enormous number of writers and readers, we are bound to find our niche. The age of blogging has made everyone a writer, so it is the duty of writers to write selfishly. Writing would lose purpose if it becomes a homogeneous group of ideas, and I believe the advancement of writing depends on selfish writers.
I think the underlying theme between the three pieces is the human element of writing. The selfishness of the writer, the feedback from bloggers, and the expression of creativity are driven by the human need for self-expression. This human element will always be the focal point of writing, and gives us writers the ability to constantly grow alongside writing as it evolves.
Hey! Hi! Hello!
Like most good acquaintance-makings, I figured it would be best to greet you. You, like me, are new to this blog, and, as such, introductions are in order.
Let’s start basic (like me! Haha, because I’m a white girl? Basic? Nevermind). My name is Sarah. I am at the shallow end of my twenties and in my second year of college. I am a nerd in the truest, embarrassing, old-fashioned, let’s-shove-this-geek-in-a-locker kind of way. I watch a lot of anime and all my friends are engineers and I have played table-top games before and I spend all my time on tumblr or watching YouTubers play video games. It’s a sickness.
When I’m not doing those things though, sometimes I’m writing! I emphasize sometimes here because I do it in sporadic bursts. I do it when school is in session for essays and reactionary pieces. I write when I have something funny (ie something that makes ME laugh) to share on Facebook. I write when I get too down on myself for not having actually written anything “fun” and I’ll sit down and leaf through the Word Doc of prompts and ideas I have built up for just such an occasion and maybe pick one and run with it for a while until the existential dread comes back and I have to abandon it for a while and lay down and think about my life.
In those rare times when I am writing something in my free time for personal fulfillment (as opposed to for a grade) and doing so successfully (read as: not outlining, not crying about how terrible I am), I mainly try for realistic fiction with plenty of romance. No shame; that’s my jam.
So, now that we have scraped the surface of who I am and what I write, I figure it’s only fair that I prove the above claims and get back to writing (or not).
Thank you for your time.
(I apologize for lying but I am actually a simple shark trying to figure out how to blog. Here is a picture of me.)
What in either or all of the Orwell/Didion/Sullivan readings resonates with you? (i.e. What did you find funny, silly, touching, boring, inspiring, uncomfortable, dismaying, true, etc.) Why/how?
While I usually dread any required reading for my classes, I found I was pleasantly surprised when reading the Why I Write pieces from Orwell, Didion, and Sullivan. Each piece, ranging from a chronological acceptance of writership to an overview of the evolution of words and technology, had lines of the barely describable joys and frustrations that every writer has experienced.
Briefly overviewing the three pieces, I found myself enthralled and disgusted with the Orwell piece. It left me with such a cynical feeling. Why, and how, could someone possibly be so negative about being a writer? Being a writer is beautiful and wonderful, difficult yes, but a fantastic quality and passion. I felt a constant resistance from Orwell about his acceptance of being a writer. He made some painfully true points about motives for writing. I found myself nodding while reading his “we write to get back at the adults who snubbed us in our childhood” spiel. His four motives were surprisingly accurate; I had written for all four reasons: sheer egoism (yes, I love seeing my name published), aesthetic enthusiasm (I sputter endlessly while speaking, but writing is just a beautiful outlet), historical impulse, and political purpose. Some resonating more than others, I found myself in regretful agreement with a man who seemed to feel so burdened with the role of a writer.
As for Didion’s piece, there were a couple of lines that gave me that “I need to start at the top of the page just to get that feeling again” reading experience. “All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was. A writer.” Boy does that strike a familiar feeling! While it has little to do with my experiences as a writer, it resonates at an astronomical level as a college student. So, I have zero idea what type of job I want, hell I’m barely sure of my major, but I swear I could name a billion things that I’m not going to be. I’ll never be a doctor or a mathematician, and maybe I’m still in the process of figuring what I am. But for now a writer is just grand. I like that a lot. Didion also displayed incredible skill is visualizing through words. Her piece was basically multimodal because I felt as if I could see everything she was writing. From the shimmering buildings to the white-halter dress strutting through the casino, I was in awe of how she could so easily turn words into pictures.
Lastly, I’d love to look at the piece that most resonated with me as a writer. Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” was, while incredibly long, an awesome look into the evolution and words and their publication. He went over blogging “tactics” if you will, as well as his own journey immersing himself into the blogging scene. It was so refreshing to read my own blogging process taking place in the mind of another. From his initial transition to his readers’ comments, I felt all the same. When I first began blogging, it was quite the experience. Instead of hoping my writing was chosen for the school’s newspaper or begging someone to give it a glance, it was free for reading and critiques in the online community. This, as Sullivan mentioned, opened all doors and opportunities for critics. As I’m sure the following on my blog isn’t as large as Sullivan’s, I’ve had my fair share of emails and comments about my opinions, style, and experiences.
Incorporating the “Shitty First Draft” piece that we also read, I often want to pluck the readers and trap them in a mason jars, for the sole purpose of completing a thought or series without my writing self-esteem being completely shredded. But it stands true, that the comments we don’t want to read or hear (especially the ones we don’t want to acknowledge), can bring our writing to the next level.
On an ending note, I would like the bring up “the ending note”. Sullivan’s genius ending line left me with chills and a smile. As a word-lover till death, the phrase- “Words, of all sorts, have never seemed so now.”- rings with truth and beauty. While newspapers are fading and paper publications slowly dwindle, I find words more present and intoxicating than ever before. In every medium and circumstance, the beauty of words is found, whether in actual written form, speech, gestures, or visuals. Now is the time to speak beautifully and freely, as wordage has never been more abundant and relevant.
Write happily, my friends. We have good stuff to say.
Naïvely, I do not count myself as prideful. On a good day, I’ll label myself as “humble”, “modest”, or “selfless”, but never “proud”. In fact, if I’m truly pampering myself, I’ll take a moment to glance about and politely, gently, be thankful that I don’t put myself at the center of my own personal universe. I’ll then settle back into my chair in the UgLi. Pull out my laptop. And check, one more time, how many views are on my latest YouTube video.
In the act of congratulating myself on my humility, I have successfully swept under the rug that I am, in a capacity of varying sizes, prideful indeed. I imagine that’s why the first paragraph of Didion’s “Why I Write” left me with a lingering sense of discomfort.
Writing is an act of aggression, Didion argues. “You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasion – with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating – but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is […] an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”
Outside of academia, writing in my world has looked like scripting and shooting YouTube videos. At These Neon Hearts, I post videos whose sole purpose is to change the way my audience thinks about various issues. My agenda is not quiet, is not timid, is not hidden: I have blatantly said that my purpose is to influence thinking. (“An act of sheer egoism,” Orwell would add.)
These thoughts have clung to me for the last several days, a thin coat of convicting dirt. Walking through campus recently, absent-mindedly trying to brush away the grime, I let the thoughts unfold and grow.
Is there such thing as private space in this day and age? Is there a corner of thought that is not touched, assaulted, and invaded? Facebook advertisements are tailored to our search histories, encouraging us to buy, purchase, consume. Flyers are forced into our hands as we scuttle through the Diag. Even family gatherings are not sacred, filled with political agendas and the constant pressure to date, be married, have children.
I would argue that writing is not the only act of subtly violent aggression: Communication itself is. In any medium – when we speak, play, dance, write, draw – we impose ourselves upon our neighbors. “Believe me.” “Agree with me.” “Deal with me.” “Understand me.”
While there is wisdom in knowing the art of silence, it is often the meek who keep their aggression hidden. The silent are those who do not wish to stir the pot, to attract attention – alternatively, those who have been so bullied with the ideas of others that is easier to fall silent than fight back.
Typing this, I am overwhelmed with the clarity for why I participate in the act of sheer egoism that is writing*: I do not seek to vainly assert my ideas to seek affirmation; I write to fix a system that is broken.
I write videos about my time in Seguin, Haiti to show the beauty in depravity.
I write about Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke to lash out against the personalized hatred toward them.
I write about Chicago and Independence Day and the thousand swirling thoughts on my mind not because any praise establishes my worth, but because my heart longs to change a world that is shattered beyond repair.
I write to assert my ideas because I will not fall silent to the pain, struggle, and destruction of this world.
Communication, at its heart, is an act of idea assertion. Use that power wisely. Wield your words as weapons.
Be bold, and go change minds.
*Nothing like having Project 1 revelations while working on a blog post.
Just who am I
Let me think…
I don’t really have an
My name is Julia Louise Paige and I am one of the seven billion people living on the world. Sometimes this fact overwhelms me (like kind of right now) and I find myself thinking so what, why does this person that is me matter? but I try to forget about this and toss a penny into the well that someday I’ll have an answer, or at least stop asking the question. Anyway, I am going to give you my best stab at describing myself:
my dad used to say that “my motor is always running”
my favorite room in any house is the kitchen
I like to collect “treasures” because they are memories
I love people
they teach me ways that I want to be, or ways I don’t
I spread myself too thin like
a small pat of butter on a too big piece of toast
I know that this is fuzzy, but even though I don’t really have a good answer to the question, I think I know who I am, at least who I am at the moment. I feel like maybe analyzing a human personality is like putting your nose up to a pointillist painting and trying to understand what you are looking at.
When you’re too close, it just looks like dots.
However, look at the image as a whole and it is something cohesive and beautiful.
As to what I like to read, there is not really one genre or author or format I enjoy. Instead what I look for in writing is when you read something, and you think oh my gosh, that’s it! What I really love is when it feels like the writer went into your head and pulled out the exact feelings or thoughts you have been having, but that you didn’t even know you had because you couldn’t put it into words, and then they put it into the most amazing words possible. I love that a sentence or a piece of writing that invokes that reaction can in some way become a contribution to your own personal reality.
An example of writing that makes me feel that way is:
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
(one of my favorite authors)
Also pretty much all the lyrics in the song A Case of You by Joni Mitchell.
(** please close your eyes if you listen to it because the cheesy YouTube picture slideshow distracts from the brilliance of the song**)
When reading the articles titled “Why I Write” and “Why I Blog”, I was looking for a passage or a sentence like that. One that just launched from the page and lodged itself in my brain, that could become a contribution to my reality and my ideas of myself as a writer. I found it in the piece by George Orwell. On page two, Orwell lists motives for writing. The second bullet point that he lists is “Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or , on the other hand, in the words and their right arrangement…Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not be missed.”
Although Orwell describes aesthetic motive as “very feeble in a lot of writers”, this bullet point profoundly resonated with me. Reading it caused me to realize that much of the reason that I do enjoy writing is that I think that the world is a crazy place and I find that the people in it are even more mind-boggling. To me, a great deal of the value in writing is the embodiment of human experiences, which would be appreciated only by one person unless they write it down. Once something becomes a piece of writing, those thoughts and experiences can be shared and absorbed by readers, whoever they may be.
Perhaps mine is not necessarily a perception of beauty, as Orwell stated, but more a perception of the awesomeness of the external world. I find writing a useful tool that can be used to share the pleasure I gain from observing the planet I live on and all the other six billion nine hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine people that inhabit it with me.
I’ve never actually stopped to question why I write, beyond the common observation that I just have to get the words down on paper and out of my head. It’s much more often that I find myself questioning the format in which these words spew onto the page, or even into my head. It wasn’t until I read George Orwell’s “Why I Write” that I realized that the two were quite nearly the same question. Orwell “find[s] that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it.” At first I thought that this statement simply could not be true. Many writers are known and idolized for their style. I, as many young writers do, find myself emulating whoever’s work I’ve most recently read. But, as I thought about it more, I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing, or how many people read your work; you’re always striving towards perfection and there’s always something you wish you could change. Every piece of writing is experimentation and I don’t think Orwell’s statement has to be a pessimistic view. I’d like to interpret it as this: every time you successfully complete a piece of writing, you’ve reached tremendous strides as a writer. Perfecting the piece makes you better and you have one more piece of experience to define yourself as a writer. Thus, as we continuously chase after style, we are constantly growing above and beyond it.
When looking at the “Why I Write” pieces, I read Orwell’s first, and his style and word choices stood out immediately. He uses so much eloquent vocabulary and sophistication that it seems the essay was written in a time when language was more complex and beautiful. He uses phrases like “outraging my true nature,” and “Good prose is like a windowpane” throughout the entire piece that make it sound like poetry. In addition to admiring his use of language, I also enjoyed his cynicism and self-deprecating tone. Though he may sound pessimistic, his criticism and classification of writers is ironic and relatable. At times I too like to admire my own work, enjoy the sounds of words, and use writing as a tool to understand more about the world, which are many of Orwell’s main arguments. Though I relate to some of his points, there are others I disagree with. For example, I do not identify with the sense of historical purpose that Orwell highlights. Perhaps this is because I have not yet developed many political loyalties, but it makes me wonder if I would be considered a good writer through Orwell’s eyes.
In contrast, I very much agree with Joan Didion’s entire piece. Didion, though inspired by Orwell’s “Why I Write,” took a very different approach. Her tone is less poetic and more conversational. Unlike Orwell, she speaks casually with the reader, a distinction that makes sense due to the fact it is an article rather than an essay. I was struck most by Didion’s explanation of how writing helps her think clearly: “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” This part stood out to me as incredibly accurate. In my writing I feel that I can explain thoughts and feelings that are difficult to vocalize. I enjoy journaling when there is a lot on my mind, because when they are on paper, feelings are easier to define. I can write and then read over my thoughts, choosing which ones sound right.
While reading both Orwell and Didions’ pieces, I felt a sense of comfort knowing that I am by no means alone in my feelings toward and dependence on writing. As Orwell describes, a relationship with writing is a part of your identity, and as Didion explains, it is useful tool to sort out a jumbled mind. As I compose my own “Why I Write” piece, Orwell and Didion have helped me reflect on these aspects of my own relationship with writing.
As I read why other authors write and reflect on why I write myself for the first writing assignment, I’ve noticed a pattern. The parts that have really resonated with me is the idea that I write for myself. And, while that sounds like George Orwell’s idea that a “strong motive” for writers is “sheer egoism”, I don’t see it that way. I agree that all writers probably write for personal reasons, but I don’t think that makes them egotistical. It makes them human. I mean, why write if it isn’t cathartic or at least enjoyable in some way? If a writer doesn’t enjoy what he or she is writing, then why write at all? What is the point of sitting down and writing something if you hate what you’re doing the entire time? At that point, you might as well just get a job doing something else boring and monotonous (although I won’t say what, since something I find boring might be someone’s dream job). But, as a writer, do you really want to look like this all the time?
My personal answer to that question is no. I think that writing should be fun and entertaining and at least slightly self-serving. When I write something, even if it’s just a class paper, I want to enjoy it and be proud of what I’ve written. And, in my opinion, that’s not being too self-centered. When a scientist makes a particularly exciting breakthrough, he or she is allowed to be proud of what was accomplished. That scientist might present the findings at a conference or just tell their peers what a great discovery was made and they aren’t considered to be even the least bit conceited. When I write, I feel like I should be allowed the same privileges. I should be allowed to be proud of my work and happy about what I’ve accomplished and if I want to post on social media or tell my friend how good I feel about what I’ve accomplished, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I believe that humans are inherently proud when they accomplish something they’ve been working on for a while and that doesn’t make them egotistical. It makes them human. So I guess what I’m saying is, although I agree with Orwell that people probably write for their own personal benefit, I disagree that it means they are writing for “sheer egoism”. They are just expressing themselves and following their human nature. So, in my opinion, feel free to be proud and do a little happy dance if you write something that you think it particularly brilliant. Don’t worry, I won’t judge.
If you walked into my bedroom, you might think I’m a really vain and arrogant person. I hope that you wouldn’t, but there’s a chance. I have saved a copy of The Michigan Daily for each one that I worked on, and hung them up around the room. It’s reminiscent of a mother who hangs up her young kid’s drawings (hopefully they look better than the terrible children family portraits with every member of the family drawn with orange crayon, though) on the family refrigerator.
Ever since we read Orwell’s “Why I Write,” I keep coming back to his four main points about he writes (duh) when I’m looking at these hung up Daily issues. Is there a political purpose in these pompous posters of self-accomplishment? Not really. An aesthetic enthusiasm? If they’re done well, I guess. Sheer egoism? Absolutely. But that’s the point.
When I turn on the TV, it’s mostly reserved for people who have such tremendous achievements. Oh, the Golden Globes are on? Here’s some of the world’s most beautiful people lauding other beautiful people for making beautiful art. Oh, the NFL playoffs are on? Here’s a bunch of Goliaths who are pushing the human physique to unimaginable points.
Am I skilled in any way that is even close to comparable with these people? Absolutely not (unless we’re counting “Who can watch the most episodes of The Office today,” in which case I’m at least competitive). But I am really proud of my writing. Orwell said it was because of sheer egoism, and he’s so right. Writing for me has become my way, no matter how relatively insignificant, of showing that there is something that I can do well. And if hanging up the symbols of that makes me a vain person, then I’m damn proud of it.