The Art of Writing (and the Teaching of It)

There’s little to say about what writing is in and of itself. It’s the act of converting auditory intercommunication to visual intercommunication. From as far back as 1934, Lev Vygotsky investigated the psychological impetus of language as it pertained to thought (and, by extension, the auditory representation of such thought). Writing, then, is an expression of thought. It can be informative, exploratory, or therapeutic. In academic environments, the act of writing is the act of communicating effectively–hence rules of grammar, syntax, etc. But beyond that, there are also underlying rhetorical devices and structural technique endemic to “good writing.” It’s more than throwing words on a page and hoping they stick; in fact, there’s a process, and modern instruction of writing relies heavily on this. The aptly named process pedagogy considers writing to be the intersection of idea formation, drafting, and revision not in any particular order but in a reflexivity by which each component of the writing process is equally dependent on each other component.

I mentioned good writing earlier, and while there are objectively corrects issues in syntax and grammar, writing in and of itself is a creative process, and oftentimes the subversion of rules or expectations can produce a rhetorical effect that supersedes “proper” writing in its ability to resonate with a reader. And good writing is just that: writing that resonates. To that point, a writer doesn’t have to be someone who sits drunkenly in their room at three in the morning, drinking their fifth cup of coffee and pushing their cat off the keyboard. A writer can be anybody and is everybody. Writing is more about being traditionally published. It’s the public statement that garners support for a company; it’s a text sent to a friend late at night that pulls them out of a depressive slump; it’s the lab report that revolutionizes scientific inquiry for years to come; it’s the slogan that draws you to a business you would have otherwise neglected; and, yes, it is sometimes the book, film, or television show with lively characters you lose yourself in and learn from.

As I move towards a career as an educator, these are the ideas I’d like to instill in my students, that there’s a place for effective communication regardless how they choose to navigate life. We’ve all encountered pieces of writing that impacted us in ways we didn’t expect. And there’s always a place for that kind of writing.

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