Nearly every day of my life, I sit down at a desk with a computer and write. For a varied duration, I dedicate focus to creating a written response to a, commonly, linear prompt. Despite the process sounding tedious, it’s a task that varies greatly within every writing session. Some sessions lead to composing my best work, while other sessions lead to more confusion than when I started. In a sense, I’m enthralled by the risk of failure and/or time loss, as I still may potentially create the “best work” I so desire.
Of course, even my “best work” is labeled as so by my own standards. Writing, like any art form, is highly subjective: one piece may emotionally entangle one reader, yet leave another reader unaffected. When “good writing” is discussed, the linear answer would often relate to factors such as grammatical correctness and paragraph structure. Beyond these superficial elements, what truly makes for “good writing?”
I theorized this question quite a bit in my English composition classes freshman year at Millersville University. Through passionate class discussions, I now view writing as a process of gradually finding methods of improving my written communication abilities. Making these improvements lead to “good writing,” which is communicating to an intended audience as thoroughly as possible.
Note the importance of the “as possible” aspect of the previous sentence. I truly believe perfection within writing is impossible, especially with how subjective value is in terms of written texts. Not to say I abhor all my pieces: as a writer for The Snapper, Millersville’s student-ran news publication, I fondly recall many pieces I’ve written where earnest care for the subject lead to vibrant content. Besides The Snapper, I feel I’ve written compelling academic essays within my three-semester college career.
Even with the moderate pride I feel of my work, I still recall many moments where pride was diminished. Writing is hard: writing can be emotional, stressful, and confusing all simply dependent on how one feels prior to sitting and writing. New York Times bestselling author Anne Lamott put it best in her aptly titled article “Sh*tty First Drafts,” discussing the writing troubles of her associates: “…not one of them (writers) sit down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic, (1).”
Writing, frankly, can be grueling: anyone who’s struggled to submit an essay before midnight can attest. Still, I cannot name another activity where I can immediately have an impact on a group of people. I’m certainly not claiming to be writing some life-changing memoir and/or highly selling and emotionally-gripping novel. As of now, it’s enough to know those that read my work at least potentially learn something they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Even above the challenge of writing itself, using conversation to create additional conversation is one of my favorite facets of writing and publishing works. Being primarily an opinion editor and/or writer especially leads to creation of conversation. I also love writing film reviews, as film appreciation is just as subjective as writing itself. Even when a fellow film-buff friend’s opinion doesn’t align with mine, our opposing perspectives still lead to deeper conversation about the material. The more conversation, the deeper the appreciation and knowledge a group can develop of said material. After all, our understanding of the world comes from highly discussed theories of why the world’s wonders work as they do.
I’d venture to say my writer-based experiences lead to a substantial development of empathy. Empathy is a key factor in creating pieces to best express your views and ideas to an audience. Empathy that leads to mindfulness of a discourse’s own beliefs, moral codes, and other elements a group prides themselves of upholding. Above all, isn’t building empathy for other groups the primary reason students study literature and other texts? It’s why experiencing the visualized thoughts of another group can lead to another group understanding feelings and experiences beyond their own perspectives.
Writing will never go away, and “good writing” will never lose its value. I will continue to sit at a keyboard, writing about topics I currently can’t even imagine to challenge my abilities. I’ll encourage those who read my work to make suggestions, as any feedback and offering of perspective will build empathy. Maybe I’ll finally get to writing the novel every writing aspires to create. The only way any of this can happen is if I do the task that drives my life: write.