Inside the Writing World: Defining the Term “Writer” in Multiple Contexts
by Brianna Lopez
“Am I an author or do I just write papers? Is that an author?”
Naomi, Psychology (Cheung, p. 1477)
What does it mean to be a “writer”? With a range of genres and venues in which the modern-day writer can create written works, this research will investigate the definitional complexities of composition in the modern writing world. In the twenty-first century especially, a term called “Instapoets” has been coined to represent authors, writers, or poets who write work specifically made for publication on social media. Often, critics look down upon these writers because their works seem ill-conceived. For example, according to British daily newspaper The Guardian, Rupi Kaur, a bestselling author and one of the more famous “Instapoets,” has frequently found her work under fire because of “her trademark fragmented free verse” (Khaira-Hanks). Online critics of Instapoetry mimic Kaur’s pieces about love, sex, and relationships by using her format to create poetry of similar style on less important topics. Khaira-Hanks of The Guardian cites Twitter user @guymizrahi_ who writes: “There’s a difference between / Someone telling you they’re ordering pizza / And them actually / Ordering pizza.” Such backlash and mockery toward an Instapoet begs the question of where the line is drawn between “Instapoet” and “writer” – if such a line even needs to be drawn. The line between Instapoets and academics may not be as clear cut as traditional academics believe. The current ambiguity of these boundaries is what makes Naomi, a participant in Kevin Cheung’s 2018 study on the authorial identity of academic writers, confused about whether she should consider herself an author if she just writes papers for educational assignments. Although writing may be more sophisticated and formal in some settings, personal and informal in other contexts, the term “writer” should not suggest a certain hierarchy that labels different types of writing as more valuable than others. This paper aims to answer Naomi’s question and prove that the term “writer” is a versatile term that can envelope academia, recreational (or personal) writing, and Instapoetry while maintaining the integrity and validity of each community of writers.
Before discussing Instagram poetry, this paper will explain the platform of Instagram and how it is used to share poetry. Instagram is a social media platform primarily used for sharing photos and videos. The platform allows users to post videos of up to 60 seconds in length and up to ten images in one post. In addition, there is a story feature, which allows users to post an image or video on their story for 24 hours before it is automatically erased. In the case of Instagram poetry, most posts use platforms like Canva to create a PNG file with the text of the piece they want to share. Here is an example from my own Instagram poetry account.
While it may seem that poetry published on an Instagram account does not perform the same as printed academic texts would, the article “#poetryisnotdead: Understanding Instagram Poetry within a Transliteracies Framework” by Kate Kovalik and Jen Scott Curwood discusses three themes of literary practices on Instagram. One of the themes discussed was accessibility. Due to the widespread participation of users on social media, millions of people are able to see all kinds of posts. Academia does not allow this same level of accessibility because there is a certain voice and stature one must have in order to be considered a true academic—including sophistication and writing and research experience, among others. Instagram poetry does not have this kind of criteria—anyone can create an Instagram account and start sharing their personal writing.
The Controversy of the Instapoet
Still, there is a large amount of controversy surrounding whether Instapoets are actual poets. Instapoetry is becoming the home for many up-and-coming poets, including writers like Ocean Vuong, a winner of awards like the T.S. Eliot Prize, Whiting Award, Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize. His poetry is critically acclaimed, making him a “writer” in the eyes of his fans and followers. Yet as the article “Instagram Poetry and Our Poetry Worlds” by Timothy Yu explains, many poets who do not turn to Instagram as their main sharing platform struggle to label writers like Ocean Vuong and Rupi Kaur’s work as poetry. Citing a discussion from Kazim Ali, Yu writes, “Only with reluctance does [Ali] grant Kaur’s writing the label of ‘poetry’ at all—‘Kaur’s verses—okay, okay, her poems’—and he does so by pointing to the many places in which poetry appears in our popular culture, from Hallmark cards to song lyrics.” Thus, the definition of poetry is one that goes well beyond distinguished literary icons like Shakespeare or Mary Oliver. In an attempt to discuss the definition of an “actual poet,” Yu writes, “I think there are at least two obvious answers: one that a scholar of literature might give, and another that a practicing contemporary poet might give (although of course these roles, and these answers, are bound to overlap).” Notice that in no way does Yu discredit either of the answers; he simply acknowledges that there are two answers that will differ, but both are still valid. Thus, whether all poets agree that Instagram poetry is real poetry in the same sense as legendary poets, it is acknowledged that neither group should discredit the other, because there is significant and recognizable success attributed to both Instapoets and traditional poets.
Later in the article, Yu seemingly means to say that Instapoets do not study their craft enough. His following statement, meant to express this, actually echoes the idea of emulation that Instagram writers partake in all the time. Yu writes, “A real poet is someone who has studied the art of poetry, who has read other poets, and who produces work that reflects and builds on the techniques and achievements of other poets.” While Yu may sound slightly like a gatekeeper of whatever “real poetry” is, the latter part of his quote expresses exactly what Instagram poets partake in when they publish “after” poems. They reflect on the theme or title that another Instapoet has written on, use similar techniques in their own writing, and study what made the original post successful. The result is a piece on the same topic which they hope will be as successful as the original post. The problem with Yu’s voice is that it seems to discredit the work Instapoets put into their posts, making it seem as though if they do not study poetry, they cannot be poets. This unravels a multitude of other issues surrounding the accessibility of writing education in certain communities that this paper cannot begin to try to unpack. The point is that even as “real poets” attempt to put themselves on a higher pedestal than Instagram poets, they present an overlap between the two that emphasizes the integrity that both groups deserve.
Writers in a Class System
The hierarchal divide between writers gets even more serious when moving beyond poetry and comparing Instapoets to academics. Part of what causes controversy with the definition of the word “writer” is that some types of writing are more valued than others. Scholars in academia would not view Instagram poetry as valid compared to research-based publications, because such publications are seen as more distinguished, especially because of the open accessibility of Instagram poetry. Anyone can be an Instagram poet—all they have to do it create an account; in academia, however, the label of “scholar” or “academic” comes with studying, research, and publications. Despite this distinction, however, all writing comes down to the author’s voice. Any and every author deserves to have their work looked at with integrity because of the voice they put into it. This is something Bartholomae discusses in his article, “Inventing the University.” In relation to students particularly, Bartholomae notes that students must “…dare to speak [the language of academics], or carry off the bluff, since speaking and writing will most certainly be required long before the skill is ‘learned,’” (5). A well-renowned scholar in academia, Bartholomae essentially suggests a “fake it till you make it” strategy for students as they develop as academics. Professors would never view students with less integrity because they understand that although students may be amateur writers, they have a level of validity to their work that must be respected. The same way student academics deserve their voice to matter in academia, Instapoets deserve their developing and valid work to matter in the writing world.
In addition, James Berlin argues in his 1988 article, “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class,” that for the relationship between student and professor to be viewed beyond a hierarchy, it must be viewed as an effort toward a co-creation of knowledge. He presents an aspect of community that belongs in the writing process, that is, “The community’s right to exist, however, stands only insofar as it serves all of its members as individuals,” (Berlin 486). Berlin’s comments emphasize the need for all writers to stick together and view each other as equals. The writing community depends on such coherence. Not only does the hierarchy between student and professor need to be unlearned for students to become better writers, but the hierarchy within different kinds of writing—like academia and Instapoetry—needs to be dismantled for the writing community to serve each of its members in an effective manner. This way, writers are encouraged to code switch between genres so all authors can continue co-creating knowledge.
What does it mean to be an Instapoet?
Instapoetry is a new form of writing that both overlaps and surpasses other realms of writing. In Khaira-Hanks’ article, she discusses the topics which bestselling author Rupi Kaur bases her poetry on, including love, sex and rejection, but also notes deeper topics like “abuse, beauty standards, [and] racism” (Khaira-Hanks). These topics can be seen in academic writing, through research papers that discuss kinds of abuse, for example, or social stratification in relation to racism. Recreational writers also write about these topics, specifically if they have a personal experience they need to release. Hence, there is an overlap in the content of these three realms of writing. Given this overlap, Instapoetry must be equally valid as other forms of writing because it can handle a discussion of serious topics. Khaira-Hanks provides a subtle definition of what an Instapoet does by acknowledging that Kaur’s work is an example “of a new style that blends the spontaneity and rawness of a teenage girl’s Tumblr with the poise and profundity of lyric poetry” (Khaira-Hanks). To our criteria for defining Instapoetry, then, we must add spontaneity, rawness, and qualities of lyric poetry. Instapoets can discuss serious topics in an engaging, trendy, and inspiring way, something that allows them to surpass the traditions of academic writing. Khaira-Hanks later notes that Kaur “treads a fine line between accessibility and over-simplicity,” implying that the former—accessibility—should be considered criteria for Instapoetry. While academia tends to maintain a certain jargon that makes it accessible only to other academics, Instapoetry is all-inclusive, allowing individuals within the community and beyond it to understand and read the compositions.
Another piece of criteria that The Guardian presents as defining an Instagram poet is that they defy preconceived notions about what being a “writer” truly means. The article “How Do I Love Thee? Let me Instagram It” by Huma Qureshi notes, “…[Instapoets] defy the age-old preconception that it is not possible to make a living out of being a poet” (Qureshi). This has been statistically demonstrated since 2015, when Qureshi’s article was published. She notes that according to The New York Times, three of the top ten bestselling poetry books in the U.S. in 2015 were written by Instagram poets. It is common knowledge that it is difficult to make a living from writing. Instapoets experience this the same way academics do, so it is important to note that even if one is seen as more valuable than other, the monetary value is virtually the same. Further, Qureshi notes other characteristics for the criteria of Instapoets: wearing their hearts on their sleeves, themes of love, loss, and loneliness, and posting photos of their poetry, usually handwritten or typed in black and white (Qureshi). Other characteristics are their “style of angsty heartbreak poetry” and not undergoing the same revision process of more conventional poets (Qureshi).
Kovalik and Curwood discuss three themes of literary practices on Instagram which can contribute to the criteria for defining what “writer” means in terms of Instapoetry. The first theme was community and interactivity, otherwise known as feedback from peers. Just like academic writers, Instapoets value feedback from the writing community. Revision and feedback are key elements of the writing process for academia and Instapoetry. The authors note having interviewed an Instapoet who was disappointed by negative change in the feedback on her Instagram posts. The article reads, “Anna recalled, ‘[In] 2017 people actually gave feedback like ‘Hey you have a typo’ or ‘Hey maybe you could do this differently?’ But then Instapoetry went *boom* and this year we saw a change, and everyone is just like ‘Oh how beautiful,’ ‘Oh how nice,’ ‘This is amazing’” (p. 190). Thus, Instapoets like the interviewee place value on receiving constructive feedback from their peers. They are disappointed when they do not receive more than a simple line of praise on a post. The criteria for academic writing and Instagram poetry thus overlap. The second theme was agency and multimodality, which means that Instapoets value their ability to be creative in presenting their work and use different modalities to do so. This aesthetic portion is where academia and Instapoetry differ, according to Kovalik and Curwood, who write “[The interviewees] all spoke of ‘aesthetics’ and how they sought to engage their readers with works that ‘look nice’” (191). While academic writers may place value in engaging their readers, their work is obligated to look formal, with one-inch margins, 12-point font, black and white print, etc. Engagement flourishes with Instapoetry, where writers are encouraged to use multiple modalities and creativity. Contrarily, where Instapoetry and recreational writing cross paths is in this aspect—the writer wishes for their work to look pretty as much as they wish to express themselves. Part of self-expression is in the presentation. The final theme discussed in the article was accessibility, a concept seen in Khaira-Hanks’ article. Thus, these themes represent the final criteria that can be a part of the definition of the word “writer” in the sense of Instagram poetry.
What does it mean to be an academic writer?
Academia is a more sophisticated area of writing, often completed in school or professional settings. According to Everything’s An Argument by Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz, some of the criteria for academic writing includes being research-based, using documented evidence, making a clear point, and following “agreed-upon conventions of format, usage, and punctuation” (p. 405). Academic writers desire further knowledge and must conduct research, “careful reading, accurate reporting, and a conscientious commitment to truth” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, p. 406). Recreational writing and Instapoetry do not require the level of research and formality that academia does, which is where the communities of writers begin to differ. Kevin Cheung discusses the different identity aspects of being an author of academic pieces in his article “Academics’ Understandings of Authorial Academic Writer: A Qualitative Analysis of Authorial Identity.” Cheung defines the concept of authorial identity as:
…the sense a writer has of themselves as an author and the textual identity they construct in their writing. The authorial identity approach helps students to understand the role of the author and see themselves as the authors of their university assignments, with advice and guidance about how to approach academic writing in an authorial way. (1468)
This study of authorial identity contributes to the understanding of what a “writer” is in an academic arena. Students in the study describe the aspects of their identity that make them feel as though they are (or are not) academic writers. Some of these aspects can contribute to the definition of an “academic writer.”
One aspect of academic writing that students often feel they lack is unique thoughts, according to the article “Students beliefs and attitudes about authorial identity in academic writing” by Pittam et al. The authors discuss two studies conducted to explore students’ sense of authorial identity in academic writing. It was found that “authorial identity was especially weak for essay assignments, which were not perceived as unique pieces of work (one students suggested ‘we’re all writing the same essay’)” (Pittam et al., p. 159). Evidently, students believe that academics should have unique thoughts which are a crucial part of their authorial identity. When a class writes an essay on the same topic, students feel like their paper will not be distinct, regardless of how well they write it. Because most academic assignments usually result in students expressing thoughts that are too similar to others, Pittam et al. suggests that “one implication is that authorial identity could be promoted by greater use of individualized assignments” (Pittam et al. 159). It can be concluded, then, that one piece of criteria for defining the word “writer” in an academic context is distinct, unique thoughts. While uniqueness is also valued in Instapoetry, Instagram writers thrive off writing poetry of similar concepts. In fact, there is a concept called an “after poem,” where a writer uses the same title or prompt as another writer, calling it the same title “after [insert original creator’s name].”
This example shows what an after poem would look like with the attribution to the original creator. This type of poem allows different writers to connect with each other and provide different perspectives on the same idea. This is very similar to how academic writers emulate the style of other writers, like using stream of consciousness styles or iambic pentameter. Thus, where academia and Instapoetry part ways begins with the concept of distinct thoughts being crucial to academia. Social media writers are encouraged to use other writers’ prompts or ideas and create pieces based off those ideas to remain engaged in the community.
Another way writers on Instagram remain engaged is by taking up well-known writing styles that seem to attract more attention on the app. As discussed above, styles like stream of consciousness writing and sonnets have been used by famous writers like Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. Instapoets often attempt to emulate this writing to get more traction to their own. Similarly, in the article “’Playing Safe’: Undergraduate essay writing and the presentation of the student ‘voice,’” the authors present the idea that academic writing requires, to some extent, that students emulate established academic writers in their assignments. This is presented by established academic, Bartholomae, whose 1985 study is cited by Read et al.:
Bartholomae describes how students learn to write in an authoritative academic voice by attempting to mimic the style of established academics: a daunting task for the student who has to argue from a position of authority and knowledge that he/she does not actually possess. Students who are less successful in maintaining this style can lapse into the presentation of assertions that are statements of unsupported opinion (Read et al. 389).
Instapoets use this style of mimicking other writers to enhance their writing, just as students do. As previously noted, crucial to academic writing is the use of quality evidence to support one’s claims. While uniqueness in thought in academic writing is crucial, in failing to emulate the style and form of established academic writers, students therefore fail to keep academic works consistent in style and form across the board. They then retreat from the criteria of what an academic piece is by inserting their unsupported opinion. With Instapoetry, however, even if a writer does not completely emulate another writer’s form, their writing will still be valid and consistent in the realm of Instapoetry because it thrives on uniqueness in form and style in a way academia does not. It is clear that emulating academic writers in style and form is a necessary criterion in defining the term “writer” in academia. If a writer of an academic piece fails to do so, they begin to shy away from the established criteria of academic writing.
An overlap can therefore be seen between Instapoetry and academic writing. Academia requires the author’s identity to be there while maintaining the style and form associated with academic writers and Instapoetry supports the same ideal through its use of “after” poems. However, academia links more to the author’s professional identity than their personal identity, where Instapoetry links more to the author’s personal identity, as does recreational writing. In a discussion of professionalism in authorship in the article “Marketing Professionalism: The Transatlantic Authorship of Edith Wharton,” Sean Bex writes, “… it is important to maintain awareness of how the commercial literary marketplace made it essential to create an authorial brand and stage a public persona,” (Bex 511). The need for an “authorial brand” in academic authorship emphasizes a need to present a professional version of oneself in order to “sell” a written work to readers. This furthers the idea that academic writing is linked to a person’s educational or professional persona. On the other hand, Instagram writing and recreational writing are tied to the personal persona; often, Instapoets want to represent their culture, sexual orientation, and gender in the poetry they write to create a voice for their own people. Similarly, recreational writers use their journals to “let out” any personal emotions they may have. This is another way in which Instapoetry and recreational writing are distinguished from academia.
Recreational Writing and Where it Differs
In the end of his discussion, Cheung notes that students tend to struggle to develop their authorial identities, seemingly because “in order to have an authorial identity, you’ve got to have an identity first” (1477). Such a statement would not be true in the other two areas of writing: Instapoetry and recreational writing. In recreational writing, defined in this paper as journaling or writing done as a mechanism to release pent up emotions, or simply for fun, the writer is often trying to figure out who they are by writing. Instapoets are doing the same, often using the feedback to guide the development of their pieces and themselves as a writer. Thus, academic writing requires a strong sense of self, whereas the other two contexts do not.
To further explain the difference between academic writing and personal writing, Dr. Anna Leahy discusses her struggles with the concept of writing as a form of therapy in her professional setting in the article “Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom.” Leahy describes academic writing as a matter of craft and skill with language and creative writing as a means to explore the writer’s psyche (3). While Leahy recognizes that writing can in fact be used to help one get through personal problems, she adds that this kind of writing “is an end in itself. In other words, if consolation is one’s goal, and the process of writing produces a feeling of consolation, the written product is somewhat beside the point” (4). This statement adds another point of criteria to the definition of writer in these different contexts. Namely, in academic writing, the end goal is the completed, well-polished piece, while in personal, recreational writing, the end goal is consolation of one’s negative feelings. In Instapoetry, the goal is both that of recreational writing—to help one get through personal feelings—and that of academia—a well-polished piece. Instapoets have both end goals in mind when they are creating compositions, demonstrating another overlap in the realms of writing.
Another key difference between academia and recreational writing is the revision process. Leahy discusses writing workshops as emphasizing the role of revision in the writing process because writers are encouraged to actively work on their pieces. Adding to the criteria for academic writing, Leahy writes, “…the role of revision is one of the central differences between the private and public writing processes” (5). Leahy discusses the use of recreational writing. She notes that bookstores, publishers, and the media have promoted writing as a means of psychological care in many ways. For example, Oprah frequently promoted journal writing exercises such as gratitude journals, which encourages writers to list the things they are grateful for (Leahy 5). In addition, therapeutic writing is promoted in bookstores where writers can by diaries and journal writing guidebooks (Leahy 6). Such books are crucial to defining “writer” in the recreational sense. The criteria includes a need to release some kind of emotion and the use of a diary or journal to do so. While Leahy may not agree with this definition of writer, she adds that her students do. Students tend to see writing as a writer getting what they want from the piece, growing from it, being honest in writing about their emotions, and writing about their experience in the form of self-expression (Leahy 8). Students are the next generation of up-and-coming academics, and their new perspectives of seeing writing as a growing process even though it is academic provides a fresh outlook on academic writing. This is crucial in understanding how these three realms of writing overlap.
While Leahy’s article presents a conflict between her views of recreational writing and her students’ views, Peter Elbow discusses the conflicts of being a writer and being an academic in his article “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A Conflict in Goals.” However, Elbow notes that even though he believes these roles do not overlap, students can inhabit both roles equally. In describing his personal feelings about being a writer, Elbow implies a definition of “writer” that closely correlates with this paper’s criteria for a recreational writer. Elbow writes, “I feel like I am a writer: I get deep satisfaction from discovering meanings by writing—figuring out what I think and feel through putting down words; I naturally turn to writing when I am perplexed—even when I am just sad or happy; …writing is an important part of my life” (72). Elbow therefore validates the aforementioned definition of “writer” in a recreational sense, emphasizing the criteria of a need to discover one’s self, self-expression, and working through emotions. Elbow then adds new criteria to the definition of writer in the academic sense, writing, “I feel like I am an academic: reading knowledgeable books, wrestling my way through important issues with fellows, figuring out hard questions…[these aspects] are central to my sense of who I am” (72). Thus, working through important issues and answering hard questions can be added to the criteria for academic writing. It should be noted, however, that in his descriptions of his experiences as both an academic and a recreational writer, Elbow says both kinds of writing are an important part of his life, or central to who he is. The differences in academic and recreational writing are therefore not enough to completely discredit the integrity or validity of either genre or context. A person can be both an academic and recreational writer, can enjoy both, and can be successful in both areas, as Elbow’s comments help to prove. This emphasizes the ability of writers to code switch between modes of writing without having to choose just one that makes up their identity. Elbow attributes his identity to multiple forms of writing, allowing room for such code switching to occur.
Elbow continues his article with a discussion about audience in academic writing versus that of recreational writing. He notes that in academic writing, students tend to “look up” to an audience. In other words, students write a paper knowing the professor will read it and that professor knows more than them and is more sophisticated. Recreational writers simply say, “Listen to me. I have something to tell you,” (Elbow, 81). However, up-and-coming academics who believe there is a place for personal growth in academia may begin to be more comfortable expressing their own voices. Elbow makes a point that students, specifically first-year students, deserve this. “But damn it, I want my first-year student to be saying in their writing, ‘Listen to me, I have something to tell you’ not ‘is this okay? Will you accept this?” (82). However, Elbow admits that academia “tends to militate against this stance. And of course, the structure of the classroom and the grading situation militate even more heavily against it” (82), adding to the criteria of academic writing—that is, academic writers are constantly in a search for approval from their audience in a way that Instapoets and recreational writers are not. Instapoets can post on their feed with confidence in their work because it carries the essence of their voice. Recreational writers can voice their emotions with confidence because their journal is their safe space. Academia militates this confidence in one’s voice with the need for audience approval.
Like Leahy’s assertion that in academia a completed piece is the end goal, the article “My Best Writing Space: Understanding Academics Self-Professed Writing Spaces” by Angela Dobele and Ekant Veer, discusses how aspiring academics view this kind of writing as being “mostly about publication” (346). Dobele and Veer note that a big source of the tension felt by academics is the pressure to produce a lot of research and publish in high-quality academic journals (345). As previously discussed, academia is known as formal, sophisticated writing. Adding to the criteria, Dobele and Veer write, “Academic writing has been defined as a mixture of both ‘rational’ (career and progression goals of being published in high-quality, high impact journals and securing external competitive grant funding) and ‘less rational motives’ (including self-expression, creativity and personal meaning)” (346). Similarly, Instapoets desire publication both in well-known poetry anthologies but also the kind of recognition that comes with being a New York Times best-selling author. Thus, they have similar rational goals to academic writing. All three kinds of writing have these “less rational motives,” since all three encourage self-expression, creativity, and personal meaning. Thus, there can be seen an overlap between recreational writing, Instapoetry and academic writing—that is, while academia is often formal and research-based, Dobele and Veer represent an understanding that there could be different motives behind a specific piece of academic writing that apply to less formal aspects of writing, like that of self-expression (recreational).
What does it mean to be a recreational writer?
Beyond self-expression through diaries or journal entries, recreational writing can feature self-expression in the form of poetry. In a study conducted by Katie Fitzpatrick, summed up in the article “That’s How the Light Gets In: Poetry, Self, and Representation in Ethnographic Research,” Fitzpatrick aims to examine the ways poetry can be used to communicate with her students and understand their inner authors. Fitzpatrick presents another piece of criteria for “writer” in the context of recreational poetry. She writes, “It provided an opportunity for me to represent these young people, their worlds, in a way that was unapologetically personal and emotional” (12). Further criteria of recreational writing includes being both personal and emotional and representing the author and the audience within a piece of writing. Fitzpatrick continues, arguing that poetry can also be political at times, a fact that is crucial to ethnography: “Poetry has a critical purpose, pointing out ‘the power of art to challenge and disrupt prevailing regimes of truth by raising new questions without obvious answers’” (12). Beyond self-expression, being emotional, and representing the author, poetry and recreational writing then become more about bringing power to art—in this case, writing—representing truth, and answering questions that cannot be answered simply. On the surface, recreational writing, including poetry, is looked at as simple and direct, pertaining only to the author. On a deeper level, though, it goes further and represents more than just emotions and feelings; it can represent broader, more important themes, themes that are just as important and valid in academia. So, in content, poetry and academia overlap in that they both cover important themes that often go unaddressed. However, Fitzpatrick notes a difference in the end point of a poetic piece: “We finish a poem in a state of disturbing ambiguity” (12). Given what we have noted about academia, at the end of an academic piece, the reader should finish with an understanding of the topic and argument. Ambiguity is no option for an academic work which requires specific research and analysis. Ambiguity is thus a criterion in the definition of recreational writing.
Fitzpatrick identifies a possible overlap that suggests that the different realms of the word “writer” are not black and white. As a teacher, she discovered that “poems can enable certain ways of being in the academy that allow me to stop thinking about the (usually research) outputs and remember the purpose of why I’m here at all” (Fitzpatrick, 13). Fitzpatrick is suggesting that in being an academic, purpose can get lost in the mix of the research and analysis. Poetry could be a way to reclaim that purpose, suggesting that perhaps there is an overlap in the two realms, one in which poetry could work to develop academia—the two could work hand in hand. In fact, Fitzpatrick takes it even further, writing, “Perhaps poetry provides us with another mode of writing with which we can interrogate the self, within the social and political: A way to bring ourselves deeply and directly into our research texts” (13-14). This overlap between the realms then allows for us to view our academic research texts in a different context, one which a solely academic writer may not fully be able to encompass themselves in. Thus, while this paper has developed criteria for recreational and academic writers, it should be noted that these worlds are not completely separate, and in fact, these different realms can inform each other. Working together would help writers who find themselves a part of each community to develop further, learn to code switch, and maintain the integrity and validity of each community.
In conclusion, although there are different levels of sophistication in writing, the term “writer” is a flexible one that can represent academia, recreational writing, and other modes such as Instapoetry, while both maintaining the integrity of each realm and acknowledging the overlaps. These overlaps allow writers to code switch between the categories, therefore creating an authorial identity that encompasses multiple modes of writing. In sum, the criteria presented for each definition of the term “writer” is as follows. “Writer” in the academic world encompasses sophistication, professionalism, being research-based, formality, distinct thoughts, having a strong sense of self, an end goal of a completed, well-polished piece, an emphasis on the revision process, and looking to the audience for approval. “Writer” in the recreational sense consists of self-expression through diary entries, being personal and representative of the author, bringing power to art and representing broad, powerful themes that can also be seen in academia. “Writer” in the context of Instapoetry is consistent with the criteria of writing about deep topics which can also be seen in the other two realms of writing, rawness and spontaneity, qualities of lyric poetry, accessibility, defying preconceptions, valuing feedback from the community, having creative agency and using multiple modalities. Research suggests that all writers have credibility, validity, and integrity in their realms so long as their work falls under the presented criteria, and that this criteria overlaps. This means that any writer can fit into more than one of these categories and can code switch between them. Doing so would help inform and develop each community of writing in different ways. Most importantly, these writing worlds are not black and white. The answer to Naomi’s question, then, “Am I an author or do I just write papers?” becomes clear. She can be both.
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Brianna Lopez is an Honors English major at Barry University in Miami, Florida. She is graduating in May 2022. After completing a Fall 2021 internship in the Production Editorial department at Penguin Random House, Brianna hopes to pursue a career in book publishing. Her other experience stems from her work with her university’s newspaper as Copy Editor and her former role as Associate Editor for the National Collegiate Honors Council Journal of Undergraduate Research and Activity. Because of her experience in various genres of writing, this paper is very important to Brianna, as it helped her discover her own identity and feel confident in herself as a writer in multiple realms.
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