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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Real Writers ONLY Need Apply

I recently caught up with an old friend over coffee. At one point during our conversation she asked if I had continued with any writing after college. I mentioned that I wrote three blogs and did some spec work for publishers for online pieces.

When I asked, in turn, if she had continued with creative writing, she responded that she was about to publish her first book of short stories. "Without my writing group," she enthused, "I never would have had the drive to actually finish it."

"Sounds like a pretty awesome group," I responded. "I should join you guys."

"Well," she hesitated, "we're a group of serious writers."

"I'm a serious writer."

"You're writing on the Internet," she replied, as if I were missing an obvious point of consideration. "Anyone can do that."

"Can't anyone do what you're doing? Aren't most of you working on computers?"

"Yes, but we're passionate about what we write."

"Well, you obviously haven't read many blogs, because we can be pretty passionate as well."

"It's not the same," she said lamely, her brow now furrowing.

"Well, unlike some of your real writers, I have an audience for my writing. I also think some of the stuff I write actually moves people to action. And for some of the work I do for publishers, off the blogs, I actually get paid. So how am I not a real writer?"

"You are, but you're not a serious writer. There's a difference that you just don't understand."

On that single point we agreed.

The takeaway from that conversation? Any writing that we can get students to do should be considered real writing. Narratives, persuasive essays, and multi-page reports shouldn't be our only measure of their abilities and passion.

When I asked students to express their feelings about a live performance of Romeo and Juliet, for example, students responded via Edmodo, our closed social media community. The same students who would have grudgingly eked out just one or two sentences in writing typed out huge paragraphs expressing their opinions on the acting, the language, and play's abrupt ending (it ran over time, so the last scene had to be cut). Any one of these short samples was as truly passionate, well written, and skills-representative as anything else they had ever written. Most importantly, however, the writing served a purpose, as real writing should.

But don't take my word for it; I am, after all, not a serious writer.


Jason Kries said...

Funny how perceptions and attitudes to online writing can be. "Anyone can do that". This is a pretty closed-minded view of the topic. The idea that the only writing that is serious, passionate, or relevant is writing that ends up in a printed and bound book seems pretty 20th century. Or earlier...

Glad there are some other forward thinking educators out there.

Enbrethiliel said...


I had someone say something similar to me, in the form of a backhanded compliment. He had been reading my blog for a few months and said, "You should think about being a real writer!"

To which I replied: "I'm already a writer!"

I guess I'm not a serious writer, though--whatever that means. =P

Susan Johnston said...

Ouch!! A lot of magazine writers look down their noses at web writers, but in a few years, they'll be clamoring to write for the internet (if they aren't already).

Amanda Hill said...

This is the second blog post I've seen on this theme in recent days. But the other one was from the opposite viewpoint. It made me laugh my socks off:

Claude Forthomme said...

Keith,I was wondering what your friend really had in mind. So I checked out that blog you mentioned, Amanda Hill. It is certainly very, very funny, and it does provide the glimmer of an answer...If I may quote this 5th Estate blogger: "blogging becomes a riptide of babble" - which I assume is why we bloggers are not taken seriously! We don't write, we babble!

It's true that much of the blogosphere is disconnected, discontinuous and repetitive. What saves us, though, is that most of our blogs don't reach anybody - or perhaps just 4 or 5 people among family and close friends. So no harm is done...In that sense too, blogging is not writing. It's just letting steam off!

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