The answer to the question, “Why write?” may seem obvious to some. For others, maybe the first thought that comes to mind upon hearing that they have to register for a college writing class is, “I know how to write, so why should I have to take a class about it?” And that’s a fair question. You’ve probably been reading and writing most of your life. Why take yet another writing class just because you’re in college now? And beyond daily emails and short communications, how much are you really going to need to write in your daily life?
These are all valid questions. It may surprise you to find out that the reasons I’m going to offer you aren’t just about academic and professional success although those are some important reasons too.
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Often, when people think about writing, they think about the need to communicate a message to another. Common communication models present a sender (e.g. a writer) and a receiver (e.g. a reader) and different concepts of what happens as information is shared between them. But sometimes the purpose for writing isn’t at all about sending information to some “other” receiver or reader. Sometimes, your purpose for writing might simply be to explore an idea or even just to figure out what you think. The famous author Flannery O’Connor summed up this need by saying, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” If you take some time to think about it, this probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. Many people write all kinds of things solely for themselves: lists, goals, notes, journals, and more.
Even without a purpose outside of yourself—and maybe especially because writing can happen completely free from such expectations—the act of writing has the power to help you make connections between yourself and the world. Writing can help you establish your own experiences or ideas in relation to the experiences or ideas of others. In short, it can help you figure out what you think about things and help you to situate those thoughts in relation the world and among the multitude of opinions and ideas that exist within it. That’s a powerful tool!