Writing Is Other People ):

My Theory of Writing! Okay, I really hadn’t thought about it much until this week (or perhaps at all). When thinking of my reasons for reading and writing, I found that I kept simplifying my terms. Reading started out as being for obligation, learning, enjoyment, and boredom. Writing had essentially the same purposes listed. After staring at those terms for a while, I realized that it’s really about me feeling as though I have to do something. Even that “for enjoyment” part began to seem more and more like an obligation (think: “I have to escape this boredom,” like a “duty to thyself,” etc.). In this, I think it all comes down to necessity (… at least for me).

When it comes to my daily writing practices, pretty much all of it is about doing something that needs to be done. Whether it’s about typing up an assignment or a text, there is some sort of necessity behind it. I need* to turn something in, I need* to tell my property managers that they suck (ok, I never actually send that email), I need* to respond to someone’s message before it is confirmed that I’m not the greatest friend, and so on and so on. All of these “necessary” writings seem to be the result of appeasing an intended audience, one comprised of professors, or friends, or simply people I have to contact for whatever reason.

*”Need” is subjective, sure.

That brings me to this week’s reading. Kevin Roozen states that “[w]riting puts the writer in contact with other people, but the social nature of writing goes beyond the people writers draw upon and think about” (18). This helped me understand my pilot-self-study-writing-log-thing; I may be writing pretty much everything that I write because I have an intended audience that requires attention, but there are even more people involved than I had previously thought. A particular way of phrasing something, the degree of politeness or formality, the very diction of any given paper, post, email, or text… all of it has been shaped by other people, whether I like it or not. Something so often done in solitude is actually pretty damn social… disturbing!

So, my “Theory of Writing”: Writing is an activity with potentially unwanted, multi-layered collaboration, done out of some perceived necessity, maybe even urgency, that is used to communicate with either the self or others. Or something like that, the end.

  2 comments for “Writing Is Other People ):

  1. kjaxon
    February 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Elisa, I am so going to look forward to reading your posts. Just your title made me laugh as I tried to decide if you were riffing off of “hell is other people” (which I deeply believe) or “soylent green is people.” Either way, just the title manages to capture both the social nature of writing and the pain of the social nature of writing and composing itself (I hate writing; I love having written).

    And your take on need is profound: literacies as duty. You could write a whole series on just that. One of my colleagues (now retired), Judith Rodby, did some studies on how students talk about their literacies for school. So much of the language around reading for school was related to the language of work–as in “I have to do my reading.” Reading became the thing, instead of reading as an activity situated (and not named) in another purpose (for example, I am looking at my bank statement…I am reading it, but I describe another activity–figuring out my finances– which happens to have reading in it). It could be interesting to pay attention to the times when we describe activity and see when reading or writing are named: do students say “I have to write a paper” or do they say “I’m trying to understand XX.”

    Thank you for making these a pleasure to read. Much appreciated.

  2. Alec Pantaleoni
    February 6, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Writing as a form of appeasement. I can’t say I heard that before. You do bring up some interesting points. I have sometimes thought about the overwhelming need for instant gratification that our generation has. This is especially prevalent in situations that involve text messages. God help you if you don’t respond in 12 milliseconds. Social media too; I posted a thing, I didn’t exclusively call your attention to it, but I expect you to like and comment. I once forgot to wish a friend happy birthday (terrible I know) and I was on the receiving end of a massive bollocking next time I saw her. I personally do not view writing as a whole like you do in this post, but I definitely see your point. I’ve been there myself plenty of times.

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