Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Write

Teaching writing can be one of the most challenging subjects for many homeschooling families, particularly if you don't feel that writing is your strength. And though, in my past posts, I've discussed a few ways to take away a little bit of the dread for the student, I wanted to tackle the question "why write" to alleviate a little bit of the dread that you as the teacher might feel.

The Word

Probably the most convicting sense of purpose for me personally, as a writer, is the fact that God places such a huge emphasis on it in the Bible. God created language, He describes himself as the Word, and He promises that His words will outlast time itself. If my Creator places such purpose and significance on words and communication, than I, as His creation, have a responsibility to imitate that purpose in my own meager way.

Words communicate. They help us to communicate experiences and thus bond with others. They help us to communicate beliefs and thus strengthen or persuade others. They help us to communicate emotions and images to inspire others. They help us to communicate truth in every realm (history, science, even math) to bring others to an understanding of that truth.

This sense of purpose may not make writing any easier, but it makes it worth attempting and worth doing well.

The Challenge

Even writers find writing difficult, a discipline of practiced skill. That doesn't exclude natural ability, but that does give hope to someone who might feel inept. There are certain elements to writing that must be learned and practiced. In other words, it's not a matter of "you're either born with it or you're not." And it is this discipline of choosing the right words and choosing the right order and structure for those words that makes writing challenging, even for "writers."

"Three fingers hold the pen, but the whole body toils."—Medieval Scribe

"The ultimate confrontation is with that blank sheet of paper. When you're faced with that blank paper, all excuses are gone. The thing has to be written. I pace, I drink tea, I stare out the window and feel generally miserable....Sometimes I go to that office and nothing happens all day, nothing, for 12 hours."—John McPhee
The Reason

Different people write for different reasons. Some people blog as an outlet for remembering and reliving experiences. Others write to find out answers to questions that puzzle them, or to analyze their own feelings on a topic. The key is to help your child discover what writing does for him.

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospective."—Anais Nin

"We do not write what we know; we write what we want to find out."—Wallace Stegner

"Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."—Joan Didion

"We do not write in order to be understood, we write in order to understand."—C. Day Lewis

"An experience isn't finished until it's written."—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Writing is not easy. But what I have tried to communicate to my students is that writing is worth the effort; and though not everyone will be a talented writer, anyone can become a capable writer.

Quotations taken from Shoptalk by Donald Murray and were chosen for relevance. Neither the author of this post nor this blog is necessarily commending the writer's themselves or their works.

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