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 communication into visual communication. 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 at its simplest form an expression of thought. It can be informative, exploratory, aggressive, or therapeutic. Most notably in academic environments, writing not only constitutes communicating but also communicating effectively. is the act of communicating effectively—hence rules of grammar, syntax, etc., but beyond that, there are also underlying rhetorical devices and structural techniques 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 in no particular order, instead focusing on the reflexivity by which each component of the writing process is codependent on all other other components.

I mentioned good writing earlier, and while there are objectively correct 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. In fact, good writing is just that: writing that resonates. To that point, a writer doesn’t have to sit drunkenly in their office 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 than traditional publications. Writing is the public statement that garners support for a company; it’s a text message sent to a friend late at night that coaxes them out of a depressive slump; it’s the lab report that revolutionizes scientific inquiry for years to come; it’s the slogan that attracts you to a business you would have otherwise overlooked; and, yes, it is sometimes the book, film, or television show with lively characters you lose yourself in and learn from.

As I move toward a career as an educator, these are the ideas I’d like to instill in my students, that there is a place for effective communication in every sector of life. We’ve all encountered pieces of writing that impacted us in ways we didn’t expect, and we’ll all create compositions that move others. The art of writing is writing that moves, and there will always be a need for it.

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