Writing Out Loud

“Blogging is writing out loud.” What a great way to summarize this particular craft. As a 3-year (and counting) blogger, I have always felt that what I write is very consistent with what I’d say. It has a conversational tone and as Sullivan says, “As soon as I began writing this way, I realized that the online form rewarded a colloquial, unfinished tone.”  This is the type of writing I love.

It’s also the instantaneous display of writing to the public world that I like so much. Yes, sometimes people blog about private topics, but they are free to create user names to disguise their true selves–this is the beauty of the virtual world.

“But with one click of the Publish Now button, all these troubles evaporated.” Forget about the complexity of writing, editing, revision and impressing your editors. Blogging is easy and essentially pain-free. All you need is a topic you’re passionate about and a blogging platform. Then it’s up to you to let the writing begin.

Now comes the sometimes scary, revengeful part of blogging–the comments. People in the blogosphere can be quite blunt. They are opinionated and will do whatever it takes to prove you wrong, to disagree with your own views, to humiliate you in front of your audience. I’ve gotten negative reviews (on something silly like a dating blog), but still, the feeling of public ridicule and complete disagreement is not good. Eventually I started breezing past the negative comments. I certainly don’t blog to put myself in a negative mood. I blog to have fun, to be happy, to share my stories with others who can relate to what I’m feeling. So to all of you out there in the blogosphere, if you have something to say, start your own blog. It’s as easy as that! Do not write an entire post in the comments section just to put down the original writer.

“To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny… ” How ever hard this is to admit, this is the truth. With our changing world of technology, almost nothing is private anymore. When you make the decision to blog you make the decision to open yourself up to the world.

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Despite the articles being a little repetitive, I found parts of the pieces interesting.  Obviously, writing and reading are inextricably linked to each other, as Brandt points out, “There can be no reading without writing, nor writing without reading.” But, I personally had never really considered either of the two activities in the ways Brandt presents them.  The concept of mass literacy through writing was interesting to me. It seems to implicitly make an argument for the value of effective communication and the importance of what I think Kenneth Bruffee would call “social discourse.”

In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re talking a lot about writing, what writing is, how to best learn how to write, and effective strategies for making good peer tutors, and thus, better writers.  I’m noticing a trend in these writings towards a more collaborative learning style. Advocates of this particular style of teaching cite the effectiveness of communicating with other writers, at all skill levels, about writing and the writing process, and Brandt’s piece seems to reinforce this theory. In a society that’s tending towards a mass population of writers, writers are forced to communicate with each other and, in doing so, they make their writing better. There’s a trend of moving away from defining knowledge as this abstract good to be transferred from the knowledgable (the instructor) to the ignorant (the student). More and more, knowledge is being defined in a collaborative sense, where understanding is something to achieved through conversation, according to writing scholars like North and Bruffee.

It’s then interesting to think about what Brandt says, and how she classifies reading as good, but writing as good.  If knowledge is no longer a commodity, but a goal to strive towards, then reading as the sole mean of disseminating knowledge becomes obsolete.  Obviously, I don’t think people should stop reading, but I’m tempted to say that far more emphasis needs to be placed on, in academic institutions especially, the value of writing.

Writers Read and Readers Write

As I read Brandt’s piece, I began to think about my education as a child. Did my teachers teach me to read or write? In Elememtary school, both reading and writing were emphasized equally. But as soon as the basic skill of reading was mastered (“The boy kicked the ball. Then he ran home.”) the focus shifted to how to become a better writer. All throughout junior high and high school my teachers helped me improve as a writer, but being a good reader was basically expected. I’m thinking this may have something to do with why I despise academic reading, but am pretty good at explaining myself in words.

Brandt provides examples of on-the-job training associated with writing. I think it’s common to emphasize what one can produce (through writing) and forget about what one can take in (through reading). But if these two forms of communication go hand-in-hand, shouldn’t we put just as much time and effort into raising effective readers?

“Creative writing is especially popular among the group doing the least amount of reading, the young.” I suppose I fit in to this description. I have always enjoyed writing creatively much more than reading.

“If reading makes us more informed, independent, innovative, productive and free, what does writing do–accept apparently make us less inclined to read?” At first this sentence made me mad. Writing does so much more than make us less inclined to read. I think writing is more innovative, productive and free than reading. When I read, I feel confined. But when I write, I feel free to express my inner thoughts.

Brandt redeems herself by including the positive feelings of workday writers: “…and the pleasures they derive from what can only be called authorship, including the satisfaction of feeling their words enter and at times alter the environments that surround them.” I can relate to this feeling of satisfaction and pleasure that occurs when I write. I love the quote Brandt includes from a freelance writer. It embodies how I hope to feel as a freelance writer in the future.

I think Brandt did a good job of explaining the relationship between reading and writing and how our world is changing in terms of both.

Writing About Writing About Why I Write

writing, noun
the activity or skill of marking coherent words down on paper and composing text

But, isn’t writing so much more? Writing is a deeply complex relationship, between the writer and written, the slave and the master. Yes, in that order. Writing commands the writer, not the other way around.  It’s unfair, that the creator has so little power over his creation, but it seems to me a universal truth about any artistic form. The work demands the artist to render it in its own vision.  It’s exhausting and leaves the creator drained, but somehow fulfilled. A finished piece of writing brings about a sense of triumph. And, in this triumph of conquering that which so recently seemed unconquerable, I realize I am more than what I give myself credit for being. But soon, writing calls again, a beckons me back, and reassumes its position of control. I write to conquer myself, so that I may be better.

I Write to Express Myself

I am sixteen years old standing in my kitchen arguing with my parents over something silly like a house party I wasn’t allowed to attend or how I think life is unfair. My disappointment turns to anger and my anger to sadness and before I know it I am sent up to my bedroom to cool down. Still shaken by the negative experience and agony I caused not only to myself, but also to my parents, I sit on my bed crying. I feel so many different emotions at once, but most of all I am mad—mad at myself for making such a big deal out of nothing. I pull out my journal, open up to a fresh page and begin writing. Only now do I know everything is going to be okay. Or at least it appears that way, as I spill my heart out in words.

At moments like this, writing is all that matters. The rest of the world is shut off and my thoughts travel from mind to pencil to paper. Sometimes I write in paragraph form and my ideas flow in chronological order, other times I scribble down every idea hoping to free them from my cluttered mind and still other times I write organized lists—and it all goes back to what I’m thinking. I write to express myself.

Outraging True Nature

“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer.  Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four, I tried to abandon this idea, but did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”

Wow. Right from the get-go, Orwell had me hooked. It’s like he wrote about my life and experiences with writing 57 years before I was even born. As a child, I would write all the time. I would write little poems, short stories, illustrated adaptations of the lastest episode of Power Rangers; I was always writing or thinking of stories to write. In school, I entered a number of different writing contests and, for the most part, took home first place honors.  I loved writing, and it seemed to love me back. As I grew up, I never ceased to enjoy the activity of putting words to paper but, as the years started passing by, I drifted from it. Growing up, my creativity was never particularly stifled, but I was always encouraged to pursue more readily “useful” academic interests such as math or engineering. Isn’t it a common joke, after all, that those who pursue endeavors in the arts and humanities end up serving those who made the “right choices” their lattes and whatnot? This urging towards a more technical education caused me to distance myself from the written word. In high school and my beginning college years, I suppressed my creative urges and focused on more technical, and potentially lucrative subjects.  I don’t think I could have made a worse decision, academically speaking.

I understand exactly what Orwell means when he says, “I was outraging my true nature.” It’s maddening to force yourself to do something, when every single part of you is screaming at you to stop trying to be what you aren’t. Silencing the internal voice that’s trying to so hard to push you in the right direction, to make you the person who you know you’re supposed to be, is enough a task to drive a person insane. I for one, am glad I’ve finally submitted myself to its urgings.

Later in his essay, Orwell mentions a belief in four motives aside from the need to earn a living. I had a pretty good laugh about the last part of that sentence. Fear of the inability to make a living as a writer is what prevented me from seriously pursuing writing from the very start of my undergraduate education.

Orwell’s ideas of egoism and aesthetic enthusiasm being driving forces behind the compulsion to write also stood out to me. He defines them as the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death,” and the, “perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their arrangement,” respectively. As an aspiring writer, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to write a great book that people will remember, and talk about, and perhaps even study for years after I die. But this sort of fame isn’t what I think pushes and inspires me to write. To be a well known, commercial and critical success is a seductive prospect that I definitely find alluring, but more than anything, I want to create a body of work that I can look back on and find myself impressed by, even as  I sit on my deathbed. Aesthetic significance is my priority in my personal writing, and I don’t intend on betraying it. After all, I know what it’s like to deny yourself and what Orwell would call your “true nature.” . I’d like to avoid that again at all costs.