With the number of readings we are assigned for our classes, it is hard to recall almost any of them. They are often lengthy, boring, and unnecessarily convoluted. However, some works will always stand out, whether in a good or bad way. You have to wonder why we are forced to incorporate the writings of others as well as our own into our everyday lives, especially when some of it, to put it simply, sucks. With so many ways of dispersing information nowadays, what is the importance of written works, and how do we determine what is valuable and what is not?
Well, I think it’s safe to say many people dislike writing as a concept because of their personal experience with it. The way schools teach and enforce writing classes is horrendous, and it’s the reason most people learn to despise writing. Every teacher has a different grading system, so students are forced to change their writing style year after year until they end up forgetting what their own voice even looks like. And for the love of God, if I had to write one more paper about whether or not self-driving cars are ethical in that five paragraph format, I would have abandoned writing altogether. Let us talk about what we want to talk about. More people would be open to written communication if they learned how to do it using subjects they actually care about.
I feel like that is part of the reason why UR’s general writing requirement does not receive as much hatred as one would expect. Most WRTG 105 classes introduce some of that creative freedom, though that varies depending on the topic and instructor. When people see what their writing can be and is allowed to be, it makes all the difference in their attitude towards the work and thus the final product itself. And once you have that drive, I think it is very easy to write compelling pieces regardless of “talent.” As long as you actually have something to say and some purpose in doing so, you can’t go wrong. The actual writing may not be perfect or the most magnificent thing to have ever existed on Earth, but why does it have to be? Why can’t some pieces exist solely because the writer had something to say?
I believe many people shy away from writing because they are afraid of falling into a terrible pit full of self-hatred and zero genuine content, where many, many revered writers lay. This is a direct call-out for many authors, but Nathaniel Hawthorne deserves a special shout-out.
Yes, there is such a thing as bad writing, and I’m sure everyone has read something that’s made their eyes burn and their minds go blank. Not one thought in or out, almost as if your brain is trying to protect yourself from being mentally scarred from the absolute nonsense you just read. The thing is, it’s hard to categorize, but very easy to identify.
So how do you avoid that? Well, of course, everyone has their own preferences in writing. But I think it helps to realize that you can’t ever please every reader — and that should never be your goal. As a college student with a minimal understanding of my own life, let alone world affairs, I have very little authority and knowledge to share about writing well. However, that kind of feels like the point. Writing is just an extension of the people we are and the kind of impact we want to make on others. When given the chance to put our thoughts in an organized manner for anyone to read, we often make connections and come up with concepts we never considered before. And if you are then able to inspire that same process in others, then I think you can call yourself a good writer.
Everything you read should make you feel something. It does not have to be groundbreaking; you should not be in an existential daze after reading just anything. You can simply agree or disagree, acknowledge they made a valid point, anything, but you probably should react in some capacity. It’s like what many say with movies; good movies are fun to watch, and bad movies are entertaining in their own right, but boring movies? They make you regret every choice that led you to some dark living room, staring at a screen wondering just how something can be so utterly inconsequential.
I truly believe writing is an essential skill. So many great ideas and thoughts have been shared through writing, and I think it would be a shame to let misunderstanding and poor education ruin that medium for people in the future. So much of what we consume on a daily basis is rooted in writing, whether it be cultural concepts, different forms of media, or even our perspectives on the world around us. Writing is too vital a form of self-expression for us to completely turn our backs on it, so we have to be able to look past its ugly presentation in education and recognize its actual purpose.