After my blasphemous first post on the reasons why I stopped writing, it seems only appropriate to write about why I believe writing is still important and valuable, even in today’s age of three-second-snaps and goldfish-focus. So here goes:
- Writing dives underneath the surface of your skin
Although social media now provides various ways through which you can express yourself, the content produced only gives a very narrow and shallow view of someone’s life or opinion. As a result, it doesn’t really add anything useful to your life. Now, I snap my face sometimes too, and social media platforms are very useful for marketing yourself, but they don’t really show anything but the surface of who someone is.
Writing, however, dives underneath the surface of your skin. It crystallises your thoughts on what you’re writing about. Perhaps strangely, I understand my opinion on a certain topic much better after I’ve written about it. I read what I’ve written to discover what I mean. Or who I am. In a similar way, the reader discovers something about the writer by reading what they’ve written, something a 3-second-snap of you moving your phone to loud music in a club doesn’t do.
- Writing requires you to cultivate new skills
There are a number of skills you will need if you wish to become a good writer. To begin with, you need the ability to disconnect. To not look at your phone for a considerable amount of time. To refrain from researching everything that goes through your mind as you write. To cut yourself away from outer life. Next, and closely related, you need the ability to focus on your writing. This doesn’t mean disallowing your mind to wander, because I believe idleness and daydreaming play an important part in creativity, but you must not be pulled down from your imagination into the earthly world of tasks and toilets. Both focus and being able to disconnect are incredibly valuable skills if you want to do anything in life.
Additionally, writing forces you to observe the world, instead of just exist in it. Look at people, how they move their hands, how they speak, what they’re saying, how the train squeaks as it enters the station. For your writing to feel alive, you must start living in it. It works both ways too: the more you write, the more you’ll start observing details around you. Your everyday world suddenly becomes more interesting.
- Reading still matters
Writing matters because reading matters. Anyone who has read Fahrenheit 451 from Ray Bradbury (or any dystopian sci-fi novel with an oppressive government) understands that a society that doesn’t read books is a society that can be easily controlled and manipulated. But for people to read, we need not just compelling stories, but new stories. Stories that warn us of the same dangers writers have been warning us about for decades, but written with the context of today’s society. However prescient some novels were in their time, we need contemporary stories that can warn or enlighten us.
- Writing enlarges the world
I don’t agree that reading fiction is a form of escapism. It’s not a way to escape the world, but a way to live in it more. The avid reader sees many more places than the avid traveller, talks to interesting personalities, experiences emotions often left untapped. In fact, scientific studies found out that reading literary fiction makes you more emphatic.
Additionally, each book has deep roots in the context in which it’s written and is a window into a particular period of time. So writing shapes our understanding of history, and as such shapes our behaviour towards the future too.
This is only possible if writers sit in front of their keyboards and, with a daring leap into the unknown, produce something that didn’t exist before.