On Pointless Writing

I didn’t know what to blog about this week until I was looking through my screenshots and found this legit gem:

Screenshot of Miriam Posner’s tweet reading: “Writing is so annoying when you have to have ‘an argument’ or at least ‘something to say’ and you can’t just ‘vibe.'”

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m doing Academic Writing Month this year AND I happen to be a writing instructor, so I think a lot about the act of writing. Miriam’s tweet reminded me of an article I read recently for the manuscript I’m working on which said one of the goals of writing classes is to teach students how to take a position and then “argue relentlessly for it.” I’m not kidding when I say that I BRISTLED when I read that. As someone who also teaches community engagement, I balk at the idea that all writing must be so self-serving (or that any writing should be self-serving). It reminded me as well about how arbitrary a lot of what we think about writing is. To Miriam’s point, why can’t we just vibe? Who’s going to stop us? The writing police?

Of course, it isn’t that simple. We write for a variety of actors that have specific expectations for our writing: teachers, peer reviewers, publications, corporate entities, government officials, etc. Perhaps the issue is with how much argument (or arguing, competition?!) informs our entire societal structure. Argument implies value. It implies that there is a reason I’m reading this writing. That there’s a “point” to it all. Can writing which has no argument still have value? One might think of encyclopedias, for example, which, in theory, are not supposed to have an argument, but rather a list of known information. Of course, Rhetoricians would say that all writing has argument, and therefore my former question is moot. Even a restaurant menu makes an argument about what kind of food to order.

In academic writing, the expectation is that we have a point to make – an argument (however mediated by our own hemming and hawing) – that advances knowledge in some way. But what would it look like if we just vibed? Like…here’s some cool stuff I noticed. Do with it what you will. Maybe this already happens in some disciplines? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Stay tuned for more posts this year about teaching, research, and academia. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @litambitions and Instagram: @ecacademic (where I really nerd out about planning). You can also follow this blog (see the email subscribe button on the home page)ALSO, I am happy to announce that I recently launched a biweekly podcast called Vita Abundantior in which I conduct interviews with awesome women and ask them how they go about living such abundant lives (avail on all major streaming platforms).

One thought on “On Pointless Writing

  1. Pingback: Why Does Grading Feel So Hard? | Tawnya Azar

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