The three Cs of becoming a great Opinion writer are craft, criticism and creativity. To master the craft of structuring arguments and concise phrasing requires effort, while growing a resilient response to criticism is a skill that comes only with time. Becoming a creative and nuanced writer on the other hand cannot be accomplished through sheer exertion alone.
From my first article up to my very last, I struggled a lot with creativity and would routinely spend hours each week simply figuring out what I wanted to write. The issue was not in determining a broad subject matter, but more so in constructing a specific line of reasoning that I wanted to explore in my piece — one that was not only logical, but also thought-provoking and sparked intrigue. I found hackneyed opinions to be mind-numbing, and if I wasn’t personally stimulated by what I was writing, then how could I expect anyone else to be?
A side effect of this ambition was my ever-burgeoning reputation as something of a provocateur, as the most interesting opinions often tend to be the most controversial as well. However — though this reputation precedes me — I’m truly not all that extreme in my beliefs. According to 8Values, my online political test of choice, I’m a moderate neoliberal — fiscally conservative, socially progressive, with an undying love for the Constitution. This shocks a lot of people who’ve read my pieces, because I generally only wrote about my more uncommon takes — which is the very role of an Opinion writer, in my mind.
While it would have certainly been a lot easier to regurgitate trite, near-universally accepted opinions like “The University needs more diversity” or some flavor of “White supremacy is very, very bad and here’s why,” I question the utility of such trodden topics. We as Opinion writers have the unique opportunity of a broad platform, as the things we write often circulate through the entire student body and beyond. Thus, it makes no sense to me why some would want to squander that privilege by reiterating accepted views that don’t add anything new to the discussion or bring to light issues that would have otherwise withered in darkness.
In short, I believe that the role of an Opinion writer is — at our core — to stir controversy. As I always say, if an opinion isn’t making somebody pissed off, then it probably wasn’t worth writing about to begin with. And it is for that reason that I do not regret any piece that I’ve written during my time with The Cavalier Daily. Though the quality of the craft and my emotional responses might not have been perfect all the way through, I always put in effort to make creative pieces that would spark some sort of discussion — even if that discussion was simply a unilateral mockery of my opinion.
Thus, my message to future generations of Cavalier Daily opinion columnists is to always take risks with your creativity when writing. You will inevitably reach a point in your career where you’ve mastered the craft and can brush off criticism without a second thought. It may take weeks or years, but these skills will come eventually. The difference between great writing and influential writing, though, lies in the creativity employed and risk undertaken — that is why many writers never end up truly making an impact, regardless of their ability.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that writing for The Cavalier Daily was the most rewarding extracurricular activity I participated in over my four years, and suffice to say, I will miss it dearly. This is truly a special organization, due to the fact that many of the writers already embrace their creativity and are markedly unashamed to create controversy. There is no better indicator of this than the Facebook comments on just about any piece, which tend to be bloodbaths more often than not.
So continue to be brave and bold my fellow columnists, and remember that the more angry commenters you’re inciting, the better job you’re doing.
Milan Bharadwaj was an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.