Why I am a Writer

I have been doing a lot of reading, lately, about being a writer. Much of the reading has begun to show me how much of my writing (my ideas, my style, my genre) actually comes from outside of me instead of from me.

 

“What is he talking about?” You might ask…I am talking about where ideas come from and where they land.

 

It is becoming clear to me that many of my ideas are coming from my discourse community. I talked a little about this in my last two posts. The discourse community is basically the group of people I associate within the science fiction and fantasy genre. The people I talk to and bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. This is my discourse community. It also consists of the audience I am writing for. What my audience expects and what they will read. They are also a part of my discourse community. When I write, these are the people I think about. These are the people who will read my ideas and either appreciate them or discard them. An author/researcher names Amy Devitt said “form and content (and the related form and function, text and context), product and process, individual and society” all define what we write.

 

I know, the first thing I thought was “I am the writer. I am the one who decides what to put on paper. Why would Devitt (and many other researchers, by the way) say that the ideas are not coming from me. Well, think of it this way: We were raised a certain way. We have all these ideas and notions based on all these years that we were raised. We have all these influences that gave us messages of right and wrong, happy and sad and angry that we grew up with. All these ideas are part of who we are. Then, we started having our own opinions. We gain the ability to decide “I like Scifi. I don’t like history. I like historical fiction, though. I don’t like romance.” And on and on we began to receive ideas and notions from these communities about what was acceptable and unacceptable inside of these communities. So, the ideas that we have are our ideas, but they come from the influences of our upbringing and the crowd we choose to hang out with.

 

You might be thinking, “So what?”

 

The reason this is important is this: When we write, it is truly important to understand the audience we are writing for. We need to understand the community we are writing within. If we do not understand this, then our readership will ultimately be limited. And worse, without knowing this, our readership will likely discard our writing. To be relevant within our communities and to reach the people that we want to reach with our stories and our messages we have to be keenly aware of who we are writing for.

 

It kind of looks like this: we enter a group and begin to learn what that group is about. We decide…Ok, yeah, I want to be a part of this. I like the whole thing about a conflict between Superman and Batman. I want to see the Hulk take Loki by the foot and smack him around a bit. And so we dive in. We spend our time learning what it is to be a part of a community who likes the same things we do. We learn things that we should not do (No, The Joker should never die…that would be dumb, who would the Batman have to fight against?) We learn that creating an unbeatable hero with no flaws is boring. And so we write, thinking that we have created the ideas in our head.

 

Now, though, I hope it is becoming clear. We have our audience and our communities to thank for the way we write. They have shown us what they want and what they expect. They have shown us the boundaries we can push and those lines we should never cross. We need to thank our communities and remember that they are the reason we are writers.

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7 thoughts on “Why I am a Writer

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, Nevin. Your writing style is so fluid that I learned something without getting the feeling I was learning something. Your examples of different genres allowed discussion of the topic in terms that are familiar to just about everyone. Great job!
    Sarah

  2. Nevin, you write so effortlessly and smoothly! You make a great point about intertextuality. I bet you were/are a voracious reader, and that’s what makes you such a good writer…you know what good writing is supposed to look like (a point I’m trying to get across to my 10-year-old daughter, who likes to write but not read)! Just by being a member of society, and the sci-fi/fantasy genre in particular, you use intertextuality. You like or reject ideas/concepts you’ve seen, put your own twist on it, and bingo! Like JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series…she made a new universe, but used existing archetypes to build her characters and story. Without those things, it wouldn’t have made sense.

    Great job!
    Paul

    • I definitely read as much as possible. During the school year that is not a lot, but I still squeeze in some books through the year. It’s difficult to get that message through to our kids. The two ways I have been effective here is reading with them (yep…even at 10, 11 and 12 years-old) and making connections for them when they see movies (my son read all three books in the Hunger Games series after he saw the movie…he read them all within a month).

      Thanks for the comment!
      Nevin

  3. Hi Nevin,
    I love how closely tied genre and discourse community are in your post. It’s true that they are impossible to separate! You’ve done a great job illustrating that here.

    Best of luck with Norm!
    Kolene

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