Tomorrow, October 20th, is the National Day on Writing, a day set aside to consider the role of writing in everyday life. Writing is not just for English majors. Let me say that again: writing is not just for English majors. Some of the best writers I follow did not study English and are in non-academic fields. Here’s my Top Ten list of reasons for why I write, and I think all but one can apply to your life as well.
1 – Writing slows me down.
We are a busy society, and writing builds in a minute for me to sit down and catch my breath.
2 – Writing allows me to reflect.
I hold strong to the belief that reflection on a day, week, month, or year provides insight into life, yet few people take time to reflect because they are so busy (see #1). Writing gives me an avenue to reflect which allows me to notice things about myself and others that would often go unnoticed.
3 – Writing clarifies thinking.
My thought life is a mess in the sense that I jump from one thought to another without thoroughly thinking through issues and problems. Writing forces me to focus on a topic for a sustained period of time often resulting in solutions to problems or providing a different lens through which to view a problem.
4 – Writing is good for my mind.
As I grow older, I can tell some of the pathways in my brain are getting worn down, but writing keeps my mind fresh and challenged. This will sound weird, but I actually feel smarter when I write.
5 – Writing makes me a better reader.
Most people know that reading improves writing, but I think it goes the other way also. Writing helps me understand structure and choice of other writers allowing me to approach texts more authentically through the mind of the author which leads to a better understanding of the work.
6 – Writing helps me identify with my students.
I started writing because one day a student asked me what I did when I got stuck in writing. Crickets. I instantly knew I needed to be an active writer in order to teach writing and have been writing since. Being an active writer and reader have improved my teaching more than anything else I do.
7 – Writing makes me a better communicator.
I always tell my students that even if they don’t like English, the skills they learn in this class will help them in real life because they are learning how to communicate, and people who communicate well are generally successful. Writing puts me in a position where I am continually thinking about the best way to articulate a message which makes me a better communicator.
8 – Writing teaches me perseverance.
I like to eat chips and watch Netflix, but these things don’t help me grow as a person (except grow bigger). Because I write weekly for this blog, serve as editor and regular contributor for APLitHelp, and a contributor for Edutopia, I have to be disciplined which doesn’t happen when I am eating chips and watching Netflix. Meeting deadlines helps me work on my self-discipline.
9 – Writing gives me an avenue to express my opinion.
Writing allows me to formally express my opinion on topics that I am passionate about. Not only does this keep me focused on these subjects, researching for some of my posts keep me current on them as well.
10 – Writing forces me to live outside my comfort zone.
Thinking about other people reading what I write still and probably always will intimidate me. I remember when no one read my blog, writing seemed easier, but as my audience grows, I feel like I have to be good in each post. This feeling is good for me because it pushes me to grow.
People often ask me:
When do you find time to write?
I most often write early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes I set my alarm to get up and write if I know I won’t have time later in the day. And I don’t watch television. Whenever I tell people that I don’t watch television, they always reply, “Neither do I” then list the shows they watch. I really don’t watch tv, and I don’t have a problem if you do. This is just how I carve out time to read and write. (Here’s a peek into the glamorous writing life at 6:00 am today; Bear is a constant source of encouragement).
What’s my process?
My process is to get some words on paper. I’m a firm believer in Anne Lamott’s theory of “shitty first drafts” which I do very well; just get something down then start revisions. I usually vomit words and phrases on paper, leave it alone for a day or two, revise the vomit, cut what I have by at least ⅓, publish, then find my errors (funny how that works). I also find that if I am stuck or can’t figure out how to organize my thoughts, going for a walk gives me clarity and helps me sort out my thoughts. I often tell my students if they get stuck to go for a walk.
People also say, “I wish I could write.” Here’s the good news: YOU CAN and you should. If you would like to do a 30-day writing challenge, let me know and I can help you get started and hold you accountable.