Why You Should Write

November 23, 2009

One of the classic questions that bloggers are frequently called on to answer is, “Why are you writing this?” As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, so any writer must consider this question whenever they write, whether they are a sports journalist, a novelist, or a historian. Writing in itself is a good thing, so the real reason any writer has for writing something doesn’t matter. Even if they are writing for the attention, for the money and fame, or simply because they want to express their thoughts, they are still producing, practicing, and developing their skills. However, “because you should” by itself isn’t a very good argument so here are some better ones.

One of the most compelling reasons to write is that with practice, you will get better communication skills. We all need to communicate effectively. For example, given two prospective employees of equal talent, employers will pick the one that is able to communicate the best. (Or sometimes, the one that is most like themselves–it’s a flaw, but it happens.) Regular writing gives us practice in communication.

A common colloquial saying is, “if you can’t write it down, you don’t know it”–and that’s quite true. Practicing writing gives us the ability to organize our thoughts and solidify our ideas. Doctors “practice” medicine, continually improve their skills, and with more experience become better. After all, practice makes perfect.

Also, I can guarantee that someone out there wants to know what you have to say. About two years ago, I wrote a post about an online “scam” that I fell victim to. After thousands of views, 23 comments, I got to 3rd in Google’s ranking for that company’s name, and they offered to pay me to take the article down. Another example is a post a friend of mine wrote a post about repairing his thermostat. It’s one of his top 10 viewed posts, and his blog gets a lot of traffic.

As time progresses, it becomes more difficult to find information about any given subject. However, by creating something, it becomes possible to find that information. The rest is up to solving the search problem–ie how to find the information you want. This is partly why the internet is so great–content is created, indexed, and is simple to find using search engines.

The act if actively writing also lets us create discussions, learn and expand our abilities. When you actively write, others can read your words, and give you feedback. The website stackoverflow.com is a programming website that fosters communication by allowing users to ask and answer questions. That allows users to identify the best questions and answers by voting. Users can read responses, learn what is best, and adjust their behavior to match. People learn from others, expand knowledge their knowledge base. I wrote a post on why the terms “BCE” and “CE” (instead of BC and AD) are stupid, and I got lots of comments and responses, learned some about why those terms are used. (I still think they are stupid abbreviations.)

My mom used to say, “You should eat your broccoli because it will make you grow big and strong.” I used to hate broccoli. However, I am grateful that she made me because it helped me be healthy (just don’t tell her I said that). The same applies to why you should write writing–because it will make you better. It might also help someone else learn something.

It’s a common rule of business that the products with the best marketing are the most successful. That is, the products that are able to best communicate with their users sell the most. Communication is key to everyone, and we all can use more practice at writing–it’s a continual process of evolution and learning.