The Voice

All that is written is not gold: The three tiers of writing

S. Michael Shrawder, Contributing Writer

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     Papers. Papers on art. Papers on science. Papers on linguistics, on philosophy, on history. Papers on the rhetoric of other writers responding to the rhetoric of yet another writer. Let’s not mince words. Even now, as you’re reading this, there’s a paper somewhere in your not-so-distant future.

     A paragraph. A phrase. A title. Perhaps just a word hangs over your head like a shadow (or for a lucky number of us a halo) as you search for the right way to convey your point. And remember, that point is your point, and no matter what you are writing you are the writer. You are a writer.

     That’s the first secret of writing. It’s the first breadcrumb in the trail left by the ghosts of authors past as we all try to conjure them into our own works. It’s the audacity to say “I have a brain, and so what I say matters. Even if it’s just to me.” It is pride in its purest form.

     But too much pride can cause, in a writer, defensiveness of their work, and we must not be defensive if we are to improve. We must thirst for criticism. In doing so, we are thirsty for self-improvement. So, were I a pharmacist, I might prescribe a dose of play to even out the ever-so-necessary sin of pride.


     Yes, the pride of the writer is very necessary. You must take pride in your work, because if you don’t, well then there will be no writing. There would only be the internal monologue. Pride gives us the necessary push to bring our thoughts to life and share them with the world. However, the diligent writer should approach their work with playful authority, lest pride become egoist self-worship.

     It is an understanding of sorts, that I am a vessel. I am the pinhole through which the universe views itself. And to further that understanding, one must step back and grasp how tiny a pinhole is in the grand scheme of things. Everything you ever think, sense, and experience in this life will inevitably be entrusted to you as the epicenter of existence. There is no third person consciousness.

     There is pride in that. But everyone you ever meet or interact with, your ever-present audience, will be experiencing this same sensation of existence. The light through the pinholes dance together. There is play in this.

     This is to say that, when the writer understands the meaning of life, well then, I suppose they can begin writing. But what is writing? Here’s a hint: it’s not what’s been written.


     There’s a reason that, writing is often referred to a process. The process of writing. It is not a product, and if it were then there would be no worry about plagiarism. We would fill out our essays with the verbatim works of Hemingway and Whitman the same way we fill in the blanks with one-word answers on tests. No, writing is a process. The product? Well that’s just the consequences of trying.

     The hardest part of writing is getting those thoughts, sensations, and emotions in order and onto paper. Some might say that, aside from refinement of the final product, that is the only part of writing. The beauty is that no one can. Fifty percent of everything you write is already inside of you. It’s everything you’ve ever learned and imagined. The other fifty percent is in the nerve endings of your skin and the retina of your eyes. It is outside of you, waiting to be learned and played with, waiting to become a part of you.

     So, your writing process, has to become a part of you. Do you write in the mornings? Do you chip away at a piece day by day? Or do you (and there is no shame in this) wait till the night before a paper is due and lay it all on the line, the heavy hands of time pushing you through the finish line?

     Now this is all not to say that you should run off willy-nilly and put all your assignments on the backburner so as to go on living your life. No, writing is an essential part of your life whether you know it or not. We are all in a constant flux state of composition in our heads. Our internal monologue is constantly speaking in our truest voice.

     So, start keeping track of that voice. Write at three in the morning, drunk on insomnia. Write about the way people talk and what bugs and entices you about their words. Write about the parts of life your classes ignore. Don’t think about it. Thinking about it just makes it harder. Just write. There are no wrong answers. Class dismissed.

Michael is a contributing writer for The Voice.


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All that is written is not gold: The three tiers of writing