I love writing and like all passions, it’s not always understood by those who don’t share it. I grew up in a family enthusiastic about sports, real estate, banking and number crunching, so my excitement for well-placed adjectives sent my family into a sleepy stupor (as their delight in interest rates did in me.)
I teach writing to Media Studies students, so I always ask why it’s important to learn how to write well. Some share my passion and most appreciate they will need to articulate their ideas in the wider world once they graduate. Still, it’s not easy teaching it because so many of us overlook the value of writing. This might sound ironic given how we're reading more than ever online, but do we really pay attention? The answer is no, not really.
Due to the nature of the digital screen, most of us skim through information, experiencing “cognitive impatience” when it comes to tackling texts in greater depth. This is no real surprise—how else to navigate the tsunami of information out there? If I can mix metaphors, this is like asking a fish to describe water (and the quality of it) when it’s surrounded by it. But reading well leads to writing well. As Steven King puts it, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
Professor Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Dyslexia at UCLA, writes in her Guardian article, “When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty.” Like it or not, we have become browsers rather than readers, and this makes teaching writing so challenging. It can feel like dragging a horse to the library, but you cannot make it read….
Briefly, this is why I think writing, and learning how to craft articulate sentences, is so important:
The written word has weight, it has girth: words can make a person’s reputation and character—or just the opposite, ruin it. They can build or bring down governments, change people’s minds, inform, and inspire tomorrows. Words can touch us decades or centuries after they were written, expressing universal knowledge and wisdom. Words express love, warmth, and perspective, the most excellent of human attributes. They are tools of freedom, fostering communication and self-reflection; they reflect our striving to understand, observe, and fully express who we are, to explore life's difficult truths. To paraphrase writer Anais Nin, we write to taste life twice: first, to experience it and later, to reflect back and give it meaning.