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You hate to write. I get it.

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3 Reasons Humans Should Look Forward to Writing

Writing feels like an interruption.

You’ve got all this work to do and writing a report or summarizing your diagnosis or conclusion takes you away from what you get paid to do. Writing is yet another duty added to a full stack of duties.

But are there things about writing you may have missed? Bear with me while I argue that writing should be an essential part of most jobs that require humans to work at their peak humanness.

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Writing Reason #1: I Get to Reflect

Reflection—that process of slowing to examine something you or someone else has done or said—can have a healing effect. Slowing triggers a meaning-making mindset. You come to better understand things when you step aside to reflect: how your life works. How other people’s words work on your consciousness. Reflection helps you put things in order: just how much authority do I give the troll on Twitter? (Hint: very little). How can I grow as a husband/wife, friend, mother/father/sibling, colleague? These are the kind of human-scale questions that bubble up from reflection.

Reflection via writing is a dialogue with yourself about what is important. It must be so: because you must choose your first word to type. And then you must choose the next word, and then each word that follows. This can be painful, but it becomes less painful with practice. It becomes less painful as we understand that our small dialectical choices are an exploration of who we are. It is an exploration that is wrong, and wrong again, and wrong yet again until it is suddenly right and we ourselves with a fitting set of words.

Reflecting when we write makes us more human.

 

Writing Reason #2: I Did Not Know I Knew That

You’ve been in that odd conversation where a complete stranger asked a question and you convulsed an answer that you did now know you knew. Maybe something about the situation made you reveal a deeply held secret (“I’ve always hated applesauce!”) or a hidden desire (“I’ve always wanted to be a street mime.”). But something moved from a hidden place in your brain to your lips and out into the air. And there it sits between you and this other person. The silence around your declaration makes you think, “Wait—that is exactly right. That’s true!”

Writing does this all the time. By starting a conversation with yourself on paper or screen, your work of filling the paper/screen with neat lines of words has the effect of revealing what you know. It also has the effect of revealing what you don’t know.

I like to ask writing students to start writing when they don’t know nothing. Writing from the vacuum of nothing-knowing triggers curiosity, which is a primary tool for humans to solve problems and connect with other humans. After we choose words that tell what little we know, pertinent questions start to line the road to knowing. And then, if all goes well, our will gets engaged and we start to care. Along the way we discover things we didn’t know we knew. In a month when we read again the paragraph we wrote, we might say, “Huh. Yes. That seems right. I should act on that.”

Dialogue with other humans, even when simulated on paper via writing, is a deeply human activity and a route to knowing.

 

Writing Reason #3: I’ll Just Step Aside. And That Feels Good.

Today we start a class in communication. The class is full of very smart software graduate students. One thing we’ll learn is how to get out of the way of our message.

A lot of our past writing has been about proving to some instructor we know this about that. Our grade depended on this act of persuasion, so we conjured knowledge from bits we heard in class and from readings, and then we made things up. Some of our past business writing has been to convince a boss or executive committee that a certain course of action was necessary. There too we pulled from what we heard, from what we read, and then made things up. Both bouts of past writing had something to do with getting someone to feel a positive vibe toward us. We used our writing to show how smart we were so we could get the grade or promotion or plumb assignment.

But some writing out in the wild benefits from the author getting out of the way. In this class we’re aiming toward writing that is so fast, so easy to digest, that the reader knows new things before they realize they were reading. This is partly because we’re moving toward a post-literate society and reading a block of text is too big a commitment for many of us. We’re also writing this way as an antidote to those classes that taught us to always communicate with a personal, clever, word-garnish. Probably the teachers of those classes didn’t intend that lesson, but that’s what I heard and it stoppered my writing for years.

Getting out of the way to allow a bigger message to accomplish a larger purpose is a mark of human growth. Taking ego out of our writing is an act of love (which sounds strange) and an act of caring. It’s a kind of caring that can show up in our work-world, where there are not so many examples of caring.

Caring is a human thing to do.

Making time to write may just have a humanizing effect on us.

I hope it does.

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Image: Kirk Livingston

12 Responses

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  1. I’m a fan of reason #1. I write as a way to think through my photography process.

    Photography Journal Blog

    February 5, 2019 at 9:04 am

    • This I know about you, as a long-time reader of your blog. I really appreciate your posts and learn stuff all the time. Thanks for your encouragement to post!

      kirkistan

      February 5, 2019 at 9:05 am

  2. Nice to see you pop up in my reader! I’m intrigued by reason 3…I hope you will be elaborating as time goes on. (K)

    memadtwo

    February 5, 2019 at 9:21 am

    • Thanks, Kerfe. I hope to elaborate over time. I’ve been following posts but not posting. Thanks for the comment.

      kirkistan

      February 5, 2019 at 9:29 am

  3. Good article. Made me think and consider. You pegged the subject. Mom

    On Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 8:59 AM conversation is an engine kirkistan posted: “3 Reasons Humans Should Look Forward to Writing Writing > feels like an interruption. You’ve got all this work to do and writing a > report or summarizing your diagnosis or conclusion takes you away from what > you get paid to do. Writing is yet another duty a” >

    Phyllis Livingston

    February 5, 2019 at 6:56 pm

  4. Good advice here, I’d say, and good to have it – er, written down. It’s rare that the act of writing doesn’t throw up something in #2 simply because of #1, which is a gift really.

    I can truthfully say that I’ve never wanted to be a street mime, or a balloon folder, or a Morris dancer, or…

    • But a Morris dancer? Really. They show up at festivals here and seem so…happy. Thanks for the comment, Michael. I’ve been following your blog for a long time and I’ve noticed you’ve had some highs and lows. But you keep painting the quince, which I am happy about.

      kirkistan

      February 6, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      • Be careful, Kirk, they win you over with their historically questionable dancing…

        Thanks for following the quince blog – it has been a time of contrasts but the highs outnumber the lows. I do miss your drawings, though. Bring ’em back!


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