I've noticed something in myself lately. When I'm writing an academic essay, I'm tempted not to see that as "writing" in the same way working on my novel is writing. Journaling, I see as writing, if informal writing, but writing an email I don't think of as writing.
When I think about this from a definitional standpoint, this seems very odd to me. The oddest distinction is that between writing an academic essay (not writing) and writing a creative non-fiction essay (definitely writing), particularly since I use somewhat similar processes to produce both pieces of work, and often each can inform the other.
Looking at this distinction more closely led me to some insights as to why this might be so, but has also made me more determined to break down this bizarre understanding of what's "writing" and what's not by applying the lessons I've learned in the academic world's view of writing to my creative writing, and vice versa.
Here are some of the things I can gain by cross-pollinating the understandings from the creative and academic writing worlds:
My creative side:
- Recognizes that writing, even non-fiction writing, is a creative process
- Understands there is an intuitive portion to writing, and that emotions often get involved
- Recognizes that the way my brain--and the creative process--works is a bit mysterious at times
My academic side:
- Knows how to narrow down a topic and find material to work from
- Moves from material to finished product
- Sees how my work as a contribution to a discussion
- Seeing writing as a legitimate thing to spend time pursuing (since it's part of what's expected of me)
Now if I could just apply the lessons from each side to what I do in the other side, and learn to see that as a legitimate thing to do, my view of writing would be a much more holistic one. And then if I could also incorporate what I've learned from informal types of writing, such as blogging, emailing, IMing, etc. into that view, I'd really be getting somewhere.
Of course, I'd still want and need to focus on different genres at particular times (and I'm still likely to get a little grumpy if I have to spend too much time on my less-favorite genres), but it would be nice to feel that I was accomplishing something writerly and learning lessons about writing no matter what I was working on...
Anyone have similar noticings about weird beliefs they've had privileging kinds of writing over others? I see the recent article about digital literacy in the NY Times (thanks to Rob Bruno for pointing it out) as addressing a similar concern by asking questions about what "real reading" is...