WP4: Role of Writing

From my perspective, there are three types of writing. The first type is to narrate a story, the second type is to create artistic beauty, and the third type is to establish a point. These types are not strictly isolated: the first two types are more interconnected as artistic and poetic techniques are often used in narration of stories. However, although sometimes the third type of writing can involve some stories and anecdotes as example or evidence, too much stories and metaphors can be misleading and blur the points.

I started writing at a very young age, but before WRIT150, I have never formally written an essay to make a point, except for mathematics and physics applications. In Chinese education system, although students generally have multiple writing assignment every week and writing is tested and scored every semester, primary school to high school, until the Gaokao, we mainly focus on story-telling until late senior high. A typical Chinese writing assignment would be above 95% story and narration and a short reflection at the end, which is not always necessary. Compared to Western writing training where reasoning and analysis are emphasized, we really don’t know how to make a point.

Of course, the topic of our writing is not a random event, there is still a message we want to convey, but instead of stating it out right, we let the readers to savor the story and through our design of story structure, rhetorical devices, and proper artistic modification, receive the message. Actually, it is equally, if not more, challenging than making a point the Western way. If I were to go deep on the fundamental reasons behind this, this might go back to the discussion of Zen sect (WP1) that “being subtle instead of direct”, “finding personal enlightenment without intervention of others”; or the discussion of ideological difference between Eastern and Western ideology (WP3) that Easterns are less practical and focus more on the above forms; or this could go back to the discussion of Pedagogy of the Oppressed that actually not teaching us to argue for a point is a deliberate scheme to sustain political stability of single party government. Anyways, for a combination of reasons, I haven’t been taught to write third-type writing before college.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed writing the first two types of writing. I still keep a diary and write journals from time to time, I am also especially interested in Song poetry that even one of my poems was published in a modern collection. The first type of writing to me was more like pieces of videos and photographs that help me remember the past very much like any other ordinary objects (Read Memory of Objects), and the second type of writing to me was similar to the experience of playing musical instruments or appreciating artworks.

WRIT150 challenges me with the third type of writing, which, to me, was very different from the first two types of writing and indeed very challenging. I was not accustomed to structure a piece of writing around a single point that every sentence should serve the purpose of proving the thesis statement, so it took me a lot of time to cut myself with constant digression from topic and free discussions. I was not used to explain everything and establish clear logic path along, or even though my points are there, I am not sure to what degree I should “connect the dots” for the readers. I was constantly introducing “Chinese” concepts that I don’t know to what extent or from what angel my audience interpret them. To be complete honest, even today, I am a little uncomfortable with introducing my point in the first paragraph. (I’m not sure how to explain this, for me, it feels dry and unnatural, and in doing so the article loses its subtlety)

However, together with challenges, opportunities are also provide in WRIT150. As a young adult who has read some books, been to some places, and had experienced some aspects of life, I have always been thinking and developing my own ideas. Previously those points were just floating around in my head, scattered in side notes between lines, and sometimes discussed in debate competitions. The prompts in this class encourages me to dig further upon these ideas and get them down into actual third type of essay writing. Previously, my writing focused merely on the detailed description of events and let these vague hinted ideas float between the lines, but writings in this class made ideas the center of writing.

There is huge difference between having ideas and conveying them with words. It is similar to how I enjoy collecting old stuff and write about stories in my life that they hold memories of my past and without them I am incomplete because part of memory could be lost. If the first type of writing of stories, together with my collection of objects, creates a pathway for me to review the past events, the third type of writing of essays creates a pathway for me to understand what I was thinking when the events happen. Just like I can retain memories from the past years later through objects, I can retain my thoughts years ago through these writings and reflect upon them from a distance. Moreover, if the memories of objects can be shared among people, these ideas in my writing can also be shared and inspire / influence others.

I’ve always had strong attachments to the past. If the Golden-Era Syndrome (belief that the golden era is not in the present or future, but in the past) was a real thing, I would have been dead from it by now. Just like I can’t stand the notion of my past golden memories disappear in my life, I won’t endure these golden floating ideas just float away. Through writing, I am creating an opportunity for me in the future, and others, to understand “the ideology of mine”: the points, the notions, the mindset, even the incomplete analysis and false believes. I am not sure how I will feel when I go through the writings years later, probably both interested and a little embarrassed. At least, I don’t want him to forget how he used to view the world when he was a freshman, and I believe the past only passes when you stop remembering it.



2021–5, 物体的回忆,钱禹澎