Angry writing

By Sarah Honeychurch

Angry” flickr photo by jp3g shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

I am not often an angry writer, but sometimes a particular situation really gets me frustrated. One thing that particularly annoys me is when I am given a task or topic that is unclear – if a subject is so wide that there are many possible ways to approach it, putting pen to paper can be very stressful and I waste valuable time just being annoyed rather than getting down to the matter at hand. I have realised, however, that I can harness this anger and use it in order to motivate my writing. Here’s a rough sketch of what I do when given a topic like this:

“Here is a poorly defined issue that could be interpreted in many ways.  Discuss.”

I take a piece of paper, or open a new Word Doc, and begin to rant:

I have absolutely no idea how to begin thinking about this question, let alone narrow it down and make it into a concise answer in the time I have to do this. Why didn’t the author take the time to make this unambiguous? If I wrote as loosely as this in academic paper I’d get rejected for vague, unfocussed writing. And it’s not hard to pin it down – in fact I can think of three different ways that it might be understood:

  1. It could be this
  2. Or this
  3. Or this

And, as I start to set out the possibilities like this, it usually becomes clear to me which way I want to proceed. Depending on the type of writing that I am doing, I can either focus on the one that is most relevant, or I can frame the writing as a range of options. But whichever it is, I find that I have written through my anger and made a start.

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