Ten Reasons to Care about Writing Skills
Developing competency in writing takes time and effort. Unless students, teachers, and homeschooling parents are convinced that writing skills matter, they are unlikely to give this academic area the attention it needs. Here are ten reasons everyone who cares about education should care about writing.
1) Writing helps you think.
Many people mistakenly believe that a writer’s job is a two-step process: 1) think of anidea, then 2) write it down. I guess there might be a writer somewhere in the world who works that way, but I’ve never met him. All the writers I know think while they write. They may have some vague idea to begin with, but it’s the act of putting that idea into words on a page that brings clarity and definition to it.
The great American short story writer Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.” That about sums it up.
2) Writing proves you can think.
You may be a really ingenious person, but if you can’t express your thoughts in clear writing, no one is ever likely to know it. Now, it’s true that two of the most brilliant men in history–Socrates and Jesus–never wrote anything. But that doesn’t let you off the hook because both had followers who put their thoughts in writing for them. Besides, it’s not likely you are in the same league as those two.
If you want the world to recognize your genius, you’ve got to put it in writing.
3) Writing allows us to express ourselves.
There is tremendous freedom in writing. One of the greatest benefits it provides is the chance to unleash the inner you. All that swirling, churning maelstrom in your mind and heart needs occasional release–like Aeolus’s bag of winds in The Odyssey.
The creative impulse is part of what it means to be human. And we are all unique in our experience and understanding of the world. Our writing permits us to express ourselves to anyone willing to read it.
The poet Lord Byron put it this way: “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
4) Writing develops mastery of language.
No matter how you define success, communication is an important part of it. Writing helps you expand your vocabulary and master the interrelatedness of words and ideas. Mastering language will help you in your education, in your career, and, perhaps most importantly, in your relationships.
5) Writing is the number one predictor of college success.
Yup. That’s why the SAT added the essay writing section several years ago. Students who arrive on campus with solid writing skills tend to do best in their college years. A university professor I spoke with recently, whose job includes assessing graduate school applicants, told me this with great confidence: Nothing is a better predictor of success than an applicant’s writing ability.
6) Writing is and will continue to be a valuable marketplace skill.
American businesses spend about $3.1 billion each year on remedial writing instruction for their employees, and two-thirds of salaried employees in American companies have some writing responsibility*. The ability to write well is a tremendous advantage in today’s job market. Investing your time in becoming a strong writer can really pay off in your future career.
7) Writing is fun (sometimes) and fulfilling.
Okay, there is a small percentage of people who actually like writing. These are people who relish the idea of time alone with a good pen and the creamy white pages of an empty journal. If you ask me, those people are weirdos. Normal people don’t enjoy writing. But if you are normal like me, you can still find fulfillment at the end of the road. I usually find writing to be exhausting mental labor. I rarely enjoy the process of wrenching words out of my skull onto the page. But I do get a sense of satisfaction from reading something I’ve written well. It’s like cutting my grass on a hot summer day. I never enjoy pushing the mower, but I sure like the look of a neatly cut lawn as I sit in a shaded recliner with an icy glass of lemonade.
As Gloria Steinem once put it, “I do not like to write; I like to have written.”
8) Writing is evidence that you have existed.
I write in journals because one day I’ll be gone, and I like thinking that at least my words might live on after me. I don’t pretend my thoughts will make me famous, but I’d like to think my great-great-grandchildren might find them interesting. It’s one way they can know what I was like. Writing can be a way of introducing yourself to future generations.
9) Writing changes the world.
For real. That’s where the old “pen is mightier than the sword” expression comes from. The Bible, The Iliad, The U.S. Constitution, Hamlet — great ideas in memorable words have dramatically shaped the world we live in for as long as pen has been put to paper. Will your words change the world? Maybe. You’ll never know if you don’t write.
10) Writing is easier and more accessible than ever.
With today’s word processing software, portable computers, smart phones, and tablet PCs, writing has never been easier. Think of what Shakespeare could have produced if he’d had a laptop and a laser printer instead of a quill and a bottle of ink! Digital writing is a wonder of the world we live in. No more white-out or eraser ribbon (ask your parents). No more scratch-throughs and wastebaskets full of crumpled sheets. Take advantage of the technology that exists. For example, I’m writing this on a light-weight portable keyboard connected wirelessly to an iPad. I’m sitting in a cozy restaurant with a cup of good coffee and a bowl of chicken soup. Life for the writer these days is good!
And thanks to the internet, social networking, and the blogging craze, never has it been easier to get your writing out to the world. Your potential audience is enormous.
There you have it. Ten reasons to care about writing. Now quit reading mine and get working on your own.
Comments are always welcome. Please leave yours below.
* Statistics are from: Writing: A Ticket to Work…Or a Ticket Out. The National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges. The College Board, 2004.