Archive for September, 2010

September 12, 2010

What kind of writer I am


This is the first of many assignments I will post from my advanced composition class. A little cheesy, but it’s really how I feel, and it’s one of my first attempts at real creative nonfiction.

ASSIGNMENT: Describe what kind of writer you are, and be creative about it.

Ahem. What kind of writer I am.

What kind of writer am I?

Half an hour after sitting down to write the definitive account of my writing personality, I still had a blank page. So I went to THE guru, the giver of knowledge, the Fountain of Facts, the place I go to with all my questions, the place I always find my answers.

Google. I Google more than I breathe, so why shouldn’t it be able to answer this question? And Google, in its infinite bounty of resources directed me right to a four-question test on “Quizzilla,” which, without qualms or ambiguity, proclaimed that I am a plot writer. Apparently, nothing is more important to me than “a good plot, an engaging story.” “Writing style and characterization can’t make up for the absence of a real story” for me (but I shouldn’t forget that they’re still essential!)

All humor aside, this cheesy quiz — made for middle-school girls or bored college students — was right.

In journalism, I’ve been taught the importance of content over flare. A colorfully written story — though it contains beautiful language and complex imagery — can’t make up for lack of news value. If I can’t explain why people should care about a story I’ve written about a tree, my editor won’t care about how pervasive the theme of unrequited love is.

This concept carries over to my non-journalistic writing. I don’t want any potential readers to yawn at the end of what I’ve written. Though I strive for linguistic excellence too, I fear having that hard work overlooked if I don’t have the plot to back it up.

That little bit of initial uncertainty concerning my writing style alerted me of what I am sure of: that I write to understand myself and others.

Ernest Hemingway put my vague, subconscious feelings into words when he said, “As a writer, you should not judge. You should understand.” I’ve heard so frequently to write what you know. But I don’t know that much. So when I write, I try to channel other people. Sometimes that means doing research on the web or in a book. Sometimes it means picking the brain of someone with different life experience than me and expanding on things they say, whether verbally or nonverbally. Sometimes it means grabbing coffee and music and closing my eyes until I become someone else temporarily.

Writing about myself lets me materialize things that I’m thinking, to tangibly work out aspects of who I am. Writing about other people is me seeking to understand more than what I’ve experienced, so I’m able connect to other human beings. It’s why I’m a journalist. I love meeting new people and relaying their stories to the rest of the world. I love gleaning what information I can from them to make myself better.

All this from a simple online quiz. I knew Google had all the answers.