Why We Write

When I think of writing, the first thing that comes to mind is a quote from playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” While that may seem euphemistic, I don’t think he is to be waved off. Words are a powerful tool, and a tool that we have all been taught to use in some form, maybe many forms. Yes, a sword may seem more daunting than an easy-grip mechanical pencil, but the words that flow from the pencil could easily have an impact that lasts longer than the conquests of the sword.

I think a lot of people will say they don’t like writing, when in reality, they aren’t considering all of the forms that writing can take. A tweet may only be 140 characters, but it is writing nonetheless. Every text, Facebook post, tweet, and blog is a statement we have worded and decided to share with the world. Readers are forming judgments based on our use of language and the message we’ve decided was important enough to write down.

I’m not saying any of this to scare you away from writing. I think writing is immensely important, because no two human beings have the same perspective on life. Our experiences, our relationships, our biology, our childhoods shape how we view the world. Everyone has a different viewpoint to bring to the table and it is only by sharing our views that we can learn how to work and live together harmoniously.

An English teacher taught me that every perspective is important: even a naïve one. Lacking expertise on a subject does not disqualify you from having an opinion. Sometimes the experts are so caught up on the minutia of a topic that they miss the big picture that a fresh pair of eyes can’t help but see.

Now, it’s true that we have to be careful with our opinions. There are people in this world who don’t want to hear the voice of disagreement. Sadly, there are people that are trying to silence our voices. On January 7th, two Islamic terrorists attacked a French satirical newspaper, killing seventeen people. We lament this tragedy, for journalists should not have to fear for their lives like soldiers on a battlefield. But it is encouraging to see not only France, but the global community respond in outrage and in favor of protecting the freedom of the press.

In view of this tragedy, I think one of the things that becomes clear is truly the power behind the written word. Language is so powerful that it can become a motive for murder. But language can also be so powerful as to incite peace, love, friendship, etc. Our thoughts matter, because no one else thinks exactly the way we do nor knows the inspirations of our hearts. We need to write them down, to exercise our freedom to express them, and to honor those who lost their lives trying to express their own. We write because our voices were meant to be heard.

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