I was raised to think, not just do. This thing happened to me, mom. Why do you think it happened like that? What can you do about it? The balance is to think and then do, or you get analysis paralysis.
This is at least the third version of a piece that I revisit periodically ever since I stumbled upon this exercise. The first version was read by me and the person at Poets and Writers magazine who rejected the submission. The second was posted on my original blog as Why I Write. It seems like every other person is a frustrated writer these days. Some people are attracted by the potential for fast money, so it behooves those of us who persist at the craft to think about why we do what we do. And since we are writers, thinking usually means writing.
Writing is permanence in a disposable world. Committing words to paper – electronic or actual – requires a bit of thought beyond letting them spill from your mouth and moving on. Which doesn’t mean that a writer can’t do the written version of misspeaking, mind you. That’s why we need editors.
For every attempted act of communication there is equal opportunity for misunderstanding and discord as there is for understanding and agreement. Written communication allows the opportunity for more deliberate consideration of intent and word choice to appeal to the ideal audience.
We learn very early, probably as our first conscious thought, that we have to figure out how to communicate. Our needs are simple but urgent – food, sleep, a fresh diaper. But babies have little means to get their point across and then they start to decode the sounds that they hear as words with attached generally accepted meanings. Ah, communication begins.
We spend the rest of our lives communicating, whether we actively think about it or not. Most often through oral communication, but we have to learn that pesky written part too. (It is fascinating that for as many people who claim interest in writing, a large number of people groan at the idea of using writing as a means to communicate in business.)
Spoken words can fade in the memory, or morph into something entirely else than originally intended but written down they can become information that can be referenced again and again. Imagine being given multi-step instructions verbally and then having to recall step 6 or so, some time later. If you have this ability, I applaud you. I can create a mental list of 4-5 things that I need at the store, recite it all the way and only manage to remember that there were supposed to be 4-5 things in my basket when I actually get to the store.
The act of writing, itself, helps the brain to remember the point more clearly. This is why we are taught to take notes in school. Typing the thing has some power, but not nearly the power as picking up a pencil or pen and putting it to paper.
Written communication reaches more people with exactly the same message than through word of mouth. (Remember the game of telephone?) This doesn’t mean that the message will be interpreted the same by all recipients, but at least it was the same message at the beginning.
I wasn’t sure what would come out when I decided to revisit this topic today, it appears to be more general and less personal than the other efforts. Who knows how it will turn out next time.
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