Tag Archives: writing

Several Layers of Writing about Writing. About Writing

Link: https://medium.com/bereavement-and-mourning/2f7a2f1dc473


“Telling a Story of Stillbirth: Accepting the Limits of Narrative” is my way of grappling with the discomfort I felt when I found out that my collection of essays, They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth, would come out in paperback this summer. I realized that, along with excitement and gratitude, I felt a startling dismay. I set three goals in writing and publishing my digital essay: first to work through my own ambivalence and to puzzle through why I found the story I had worked so hard to get into print troubling now; second to give voice to the way that grief and narrative changes over time; and third (probably the least important) to use a different platform to help publicize my collection and reach new readers.

medium front page


I began by writing some reflective vignettes. They came out in whatever form they wanted to. When I reached the end of one, I would just hit enter a couple of times and start something else. Of course, I can do that ad nauseam (and judging by the number of people who visited my essay on [Medium] only to flee when they saw an estimated reading time of 14 minutes, perhaps my final version is still too long!). But when I had a few thousand words, I stopped and starting trying to find the threads to weave together into a coherent whole.

I took the essay through four distinct drafts. Several chunks from my earliest drafting did end up in the final version. The hardest part was deciding how to navigate the disjointedness of writing about writing about loss. I wanted my readers to experience some discomfort, but I didn’t want it to be so much that they were completely thrown off.

Then the question arose of platform. I put the entire essay draft up on a wordpress site I created for general book promotion. But it didn’t work there, and visually it was too long of an unbroken stream of text. My peer group suggested putting it on its own site and then just linking as needed.

Finally, I ended up publishing the essay on Medium because I loved the simple, clean aesthetics of the site, and I also wanted the ability to add it to various collections on the site.

Medium screenshot 2

Affordances and Constraints:

Writing my essay online and on Medium specifically offered the ability to link,  to promote my work in a community, and to revisit and revise it later. I like the way the whole essay looks and reads. It’s like a beautiful, very pared-down magazine.

Interesting constraints came up when I tried to embed links in the essay. Medium’s simplicity does come at a cost; it was not possible, as it is in WordPress, to set links to open in a new tab or new page. So anytime a reader clicked on a link, it would take him or her away from my essay. I ultimately decided, rather than risking the loss of readers, I would place asterisks and then have a “links” section at the bottom of the piece.


Before-and-After Lessig: Remixing Consumption

After spending a good deal of the last couple weeks of this class arguing against false nostalgia of Read-Only culture and making a case against the idea of passive consumption, I feel a little sheepish as I take this time to amend and further my stance.

To be clear, I do believe that there is no media that exists or has existed that only allows passive consumption–I think the idea of passive consumption itself is a myth. Reading practices have always existed and, however homogeneous any community might be, the individual ability to interpret in a specific context means that any piece of media will be read in a variety of ways. I don’t think that reading is ever “passive.”

And I think that’s an important point to restate, over and over again, because of the stereotype we’ve been given about media consumption (even the fact that we “consume” media like we “consume” food–something taken in pre-packaged and swallowed down; instead, I want to emphasize the teeth, the chewing, the weird digestive strategies of the body).

(Lawrence Lessig, I’m looking at you, buddy. You can’t just footnote all your problems away (36).)

But, as I read Remix and as I have been reading our other course texts, I am struck by the distance that does seem to exist between certain media (television, for one, sadly) and digital media like the internet.

In terms of audience consumption of this media, I still fully believe that the distinction between “broadcast” media and “social” media doesn’t and never has existed. As audience members, we are able to read, annotate, and comment on all of this media actively, if with different kinds of affordances.

In terms of media creation, however, I can’t deny Lessig’s point that “other forms of ‘creating’ are becoming an increasingly dominant form of ‘writing'” (69) and thus digital technology allows for more social agency:

The Internet didn’t make these other forms of “writing” (what I will call simply “media”) significant. But the Internet and digital technologies opened these media to the masses. Using the tools of digital technology–even the simplest tools, bundled into the most innovative modern operating systems–anyone can begin to “write” using images, or music, or video. And using the facilities of a free digital network, anyone can share that writing with anyone else. (69)

Before I state my agreement, let me make a couple of adjustments to Lessig’s argument:

  • First, obviously not just “anyone” has access to this technology, and there are varying levels of access to specific types of technology dependent on geographic location, race, nationality, class, etc. Let’s acknowledge the privilege here.
  • Second, moving away from that familiar image of our generation as wholly original, I don’t think this movement of new technology allowing larger populations of people more access to reading and writing is new. In fact, we’ve been reading about it all semester (haven’t we?). This is just our contemporary iteration.


Despite these modifications to Lessig’s position, I do agree that there is a significant political distance between the type of reading-and responding-practices available before and after the advent of digital technology. While I will never go so far as to call it the difference between passive consumption and remix or Read-Write culture (and keeping in mind that we must continue to reiterate the “weird digestive strategies” of reading practices), I think that Lessig’s text does offer us a worthwhile look at shifting writing practices in the age of the internet.

(I welcome disagreement though. I can’t help feeling like I’m overlooking some huge flaw in his argument here–the danger of ideology is that you never know it’s there.)

The Reject of New ? The Rely on the New !

writing? what is it now?
writing? what is it now?

When clicked open the first page of A Better Pencil, I was planning to be thrown into a tedious mourning of the loss of the old, a repetitive nostalgia to “the good old days”—writing with pencils, and a stern criticism to any new technology without which our millennial’s heart can’t make a single beat. But, and here’s a big but, Baron did not come across such a terrible bore. He opens the discussion by dodging through all of my negative expectations with fascinating history debates on the danger of writing. From Plato’s Phaedrus, the invention of printing press, the telegraph, telephone, typewriters, to personal computer, word processors, webpages, blogs, and now social-networking sites, he identifies the usual pattern: we stare at each new technology in deep distrust, greeting them with dire warnings, but in time from accepting, adapting to relying on, new advances eventually integrated in our lives.

My mind flashed back to Mark Helprin’s book Digital Barbarism when Baron said we have a “common tendency to romanticize the good old days” often fail to appreciate how new technology can benefit society and themselves. While Helprin notes that Internet is a “waste”, blogs are “sub literate” and Wikipedia are written in the way “Popeye” speaks (107), Baron sews his argument with the metaphorical device “Pencil” that many in the field of composition have over-reacted to the roles of technology and writing, and in fact that writing has never ceased to be technology. Writing starts with a simple pencil while new media and Internet is just another pencil as writing tools.

However what I find hard to be convinced is that he appears to view the sweeping technology just as another form of pencil.  Even though Baron grants that writing has always been technological and pencil is nothing short of creative marvel than an iPad, he does not seriously acknowledge many revolutionary features of modern digital form of writing. For one thing, comparing with erasing a pencil-written text, digital writing allows us to add, delete, edit without any trace behind. Anything writing online, from MOS (Microsoft Office Suites) to cloud sourcing blogs, notes, shared documents, can be accessed and edited by multiple audience (permission depends on individual cases) with no mark left behind. Lots of social media news groups (Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook,etc.) and Wikipedia articles offer revision and editing even after posting the article for the global to see. For another, digital writing’s auto-spelling- correction, grammar-checking functions downplays the importance of memorizing correct spelling or sentence structure. In the third place, the impact of speed and shareability of message delivery is too big to be neglected. A click on “Send”, texts will be delivered/posted in a millisecond, shared by a group of audience, from a selected community to the entire wired world, not to mention each of reader in the community could leave their individual opinions by commenting, “Like”, “Dislike”, re-tweeting, etc.

Text Advanture interactive interface
Text Advanture interactive interface

The message now rolling like a snowball through network, sticking each receiver’s ideas on its body, and ultimately casts huge influences to us larger than a tool of writing could measure up with.  Text Advanture pops on top of my head as one of the most popular interactive shareable text media platforms:

In the same thread, once constricted in kindergarten classroom or bedtime, storytelling now embraces players around the world jumping in to throw creative sparks:

Scenejo, Interactive Storytelling