My ability to write in the nonfiction genre–whether it’s a creative flash piece, a commentary, or a fieldwork project–has improved greatly in the past few months. Studying how both famous authors (such as George Orwell and Tom Wolfe) and lesser known authors (such as Lillian Ross and Michael Winerip), use literary techniques to heighten their observations and research has allowed me to experiment and develop my own creative voice.
Using these literary techniques and writing nonfiction outside of an academic tone and purpose–especially during my senior year–has been both refreshing and useful. I’ve enjoyed writing for purposes that weren’t tied to proving a clever–but ultimately useless and distorted–thesis or being tethered to the tangential ideas or biases of a GSI in order to obtain a good grade. Instead, focusing on writing in a meaningful and effective manner–along with the readings, exercises, and assignments demonstrating this–has allowed me to further practice writing that has greater longevity and usefulness (for both creative and non-creative purposes): communicating in an accessible manner, eschewing jargon and obscurity, and using literary techniques to emphasize the truth of experiences or details.
The assignments have also allowed me to incorporate more digital tools and technology into my writing. I’ve started two blogs before, but none have ever lasted beyond a month because I couldn’t really find a purpose for the blogs. In contrast to these previous blogging experiences, the class allowed me to maintain a blog for almost an entire semester and allowed me to write about a topic that I had previously ignored for blogging: the act of writing itself. Instead of trying to find a niche topic or interest that I didn’t possess (which is what’s usually recommended for blogs), the class allowed me to see that I could write about writing–in all of its forms and fields (from the nonfiction genre and flash narratives to photo-essays and fieldwork assignments).
In addition, the rise of new technology continues to add extra layers to writing, giving new tools for writers to communicate their words and ideas to the outside world. I’m glad that I’ve been able to practice blogging and re-familiarize myself with online writing in general. The assignments and projects that incorporated digital tools (such as Diigo, WordPress, Pinterest, etc.) allowed me to create more dynamic works — whether it was a blog post containing relevant links or a piece that used photographs. Also, the photographing aspect of the fieldwork project was something I surprisingly enjoyed. I’ve never been the Twittering type and I rarely use my smartphone’s camera, but when I first took pictures of events and had to upload them online or to my hard-drive, I was surprised at how easy it was to transfer files now. (The last time I transferred pictures from one device to another was about three years ago — and it was a pain.) Also, it was cool to see that my phone actually took OK pictures, and including these pictures into the assignment also made it more visually appealing since it wasn’t just pages and pages of text — like most academic papers.
Incorporating these digital tools and extra aspects into my writing not only made them more interesting visually, but also provided an experience that can be used outside of school and academia. A lot of today’s writing needs to consider its visual appeal and readability to an outside audience — whether it’s an e-mail, a blog post, a photo collection, or an op-ed piece for a publication — and I was able to consider and practice this in many assignments. Writing nonfiction, for both creative and research purposes, these past few months has been an extremely fun and valuable endeavor.