As I struggled to come up with a writing topic for today, I found myself asking this question: “What’s the point of writing anyway?” I mean, I only know of two people who read this blog with any regularity. I force myself to stare at this screen every morning, spill my guts onto the keyboard, and hope it’s worth it.
As this undercutting thought went through my head, I remembered an email conversation I had with my brother last week. He is slowly getting into writing, but struggles because writing doesn’t come to him very easily. I shared with him the perspective of Tim Ferriss, one of my favorite writers (paraphrased), “Writing is one of the hardest things for me. But I do it because it helps me think better.”
Reason number #1 to write: Writing improves the quality of your cognition.
Remembering that insight, I thought about the relationship between writing and thinking. Writing comes before speaking. Writing is what we do for ourselves when we take notes and get organized. Writing is how we practice making our ideas more understandable and spreadable.
If that’s why we write for ourselves, then why do we write for others? Today we have so many options in terms of communication media. What is the point of writing in a world with everything short of 3-D holograms and completely immersive virtual reality?
I think this is the answer. Not only can writing be a way to interact with our own thoughts, writing allows readers to interact with the author’s thoughts.
Reason #2 to write: Writing lets you put your thoughts directly into the reader’s head.
I’ve always believed that reading and writing is the closest thing we have to telepathy. Have you ever felt like an author is writing just to you? You’re reading a story or an article, and you feel like an audience of one. That is the power of writing.
We have such a shortage of genuine connection in today’s over-saturated world of digital media. Good writing can cut through all that. A good writer knows how to catch your attention and she knows how to keep it all the way through the piece.
And this is the truth of writing. More than being a service to ourselves and others, writing is art. It is something you practice and labor over with love and effort.
Reason #3 to write: Writing is beautiful.
How do you entice someone to read your first paragraph? How do you keep a reader from tiring out page after page, paragraph after paragraph? How do you set a pace? Rhythm? Sound? Tone? Genre? What makes one piece of writing dry and another playful?
Those are the reasons I write. Today, we have the luxury of digital technology to create and share our writing. We may lose something in the art of calligraphy, but I think we gain more than we lose.
Obviously, I’m focused on reason #1 now. But it’s good to remember the other reasons, especially when I feel discouraged.