Writing: the What & Why of It

The written word permeates all aspects of our lives. Even if we exclude books, newspapers and magazines, our world is filled with documents of identification and ownership, insurance policies, medical records, instructions and warnings. The written word is etched into our sunglasses, emblazoned across our food and stamped on our underwear. It’s so ubiquitous, in fact, that we rarely spare a thought for what a marvel it is.

What is Writing?

Donna W. Hill in Hazleton, PA from Behind Group of Kids: photo  by Rich Hill.

Donna speaks about writing to a group of teens at Community Services for Sight in Hazleton, PA.

The ability to collect and organize thoughts, observations and opinions and to encode them in a format that others can access long after we’re gone is the crowning achievement of the human race. It wasn’t always this way. People have been trying to communicate all along. Before the development of language, we used the “point, grunt and shove” method. It had its place, but it couldn’t keep up with the complexities swirling through our primitive brains.

Eventually, humans developed the spoken word. By using vocalizations, we could convey concepts that were far more subtle than what we could communicate through grunts and gestures. Yesterday, tomorrow, forever, nowhere, nothing, created nuances in our communications that further expanded our thoughts and imaginations.

The written word took things to a whole new level. By assigning little squiggles and lines to represent different sounds, we were able to make a lasting record of our thoughts. Everything we have achieved in science, technology, medicine, literature, music and so on owes its existence to the ability to write things down.

Sometimes when I say this, someone reminds me that we don’t need to write things down, because we can make videos of ourselves speaking, and those videos will live on after us.

First, we can be more precise in writing. Flubs, incomplete thoughts and errors are far easier to edit in written form. But let’s set that argument aside. Consider something we know from history. Simply put, we would have never developed the ability to record audio and video if not for the written word.

So many people living in different places and at different times contributed parts of the puzzle – math, science and technology. It was the ability of those who came after them – made possible by the nature of the written word – to read their thoughts and put things together, that enabled the discoveries and inventions that enrich our lives today.

Why do people write?

Mark Twain Stained Glass Window at Elmira College: photo  by Rich Hill.

Some writers like American humorist Mark Twain get their own stained glass windows.

When we think of writers, we think of novelists, journalists, poets, playwrights and songwriters. These professionals, however, are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Writing is something people do for many reasons. Some write to entertain, to educate, to inform, to sell and even to deceive. As beings who have developed language as a way to communicate and the written word as a way to record that communication, we have an innate connection to the art and craft of writing. It is nothing less than our birthright as human beings.

Why Should You Write?

Why? First of all, because everyone has a unique, irreplaceable vantage point to observe the world. Each of us has something to contribute to the discussions around us, both minor and monumental. No one – not today or in the future – will ever be able to capture your point of view … no one but you.

Secondly, it’s your best tool for self-advancement. The ability to clearly express your opinions and observations is the pinnacle of literacy. Communicating with others enables us to resolve conflicts, make new discoveries, solve problems and elevate ourselves in the minds of those who are in a position to help us grow and achieve.

The people who provide the texts of our news and entertainment may be the most well-known of the writers among us, but they are by no means the only ones. Writing is an essential skill in many professions and a skill that can elevate you above your peers when you develop a level of comfort and proficiency in using it.

Even if you have no thought of ever being published, of ever writing the great American novel or being the next J.K. Rowling, Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien, the skills you develop when you write will give you a leg up in life. Knowing how to express the thoughts you have in ways that will be accurate and inspiring can help you elevate the thinking of others on any topic you choose. When you do that, people notice.

Getting Started with Writing Your World

Allow writing to become a regular part of your life. Remember that, like everything else, it’s a skill that needs to be developed through practice. You’re going to hit a few sour notes. You might walk into a wall. You might put too much salt in the soup. The important thing is to start somewhere and work on it.

One of the best things you can do to get started is to keep a journal. Write something every day. Write what happened and what didn’t happen. Pick something and describe it as though you were talking to someone who was going to experience it only through your words.

Capture a bit of the dialog of your life by precisely quoting something someone said, complete with the misspeaks, slurred words and hesitations you hear in the world around you. Did you hear anything that puzzled or alarmed you? Did something strike you as funny? Write it down. It’s your journal; you don’t have to share it, edit it or even re-read it, but keep it and enjoy the process. You’ll be glad you did.

About Donna W. Hill

Donna W. Hill is a writer, speaker, animal lover and avid knitter from Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains. Her first novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, is an adventure-mystery with excursions into fantasy for general audiences. Professionals in the fields of education and the arts have endorsed it as a diversity, inclusion and anti-bullying resource for junior high through college. A songwriter with three albums, Hill provided educational and motivational programs in the Greater Philadelphia area for fifteen years before moving to the mountains. Her essay, "Satori Green" appears in Richard Singer's Now, Embracing the Present Moment (2010, O-Books), and her cancer-survivor story is in Dawn Colclasure’s On the Wings of Pink Angels (2012). From 2009 through 2013, Hill was an online journalist for numerous publications, covering topics ranging from nature, health care and accessibility to music, knitting and chocolate. She is an experienced talk show guest and guest blogger and presents workshops about writing and her novel for school, university, community and business groups. The Heart of Applebutter Hill is available in print and e-versions at Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Smashwords, Create Space and other outlets. It is also available through Bookshare for readers with print disabilities.
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3 Responses to Writing: the What & Why of It

  1. Excellent post Donna! I love every aspect of communication but none challenges me like writing. Before I began my blog I did a great deal of business writing and transferring that type of writing for the more personal style of the blog was different and I’m still learning. Words are so powerful and when used correctly we can achieve anything.


    • Thanks, Steph. I understand the switch from one form of writing to another. I was doing mostly publicity (press releases both for myself when I was a fulltime working musician and for various nonprofits). I think the time I spent writing articles for what are now mostly defunct online magazines did help with the transition, but I still prefer writing in the third person, even when it’s about myself. That just seems so wrong:)

      Liked by 1 person

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