Originally posted on the University of Houston Writing Center’s blog.
When the rest of the social media team forced me — ahem, tasked me with writing the first blog post, my bones started to feel a little bit like lead, all heavy and cold.
Setting the bar for this blog is a big deal, especially considering the question that Matt posed:
Why do we write?
Okay, honesty hats on, friends, for a second, I was excited; I’m a writer — fiction, poetry, autobiographical pieces, personal blog posts, essays, book reports, argumentative pieces, whatever. Anything. Everything. I love to write, and to share what motivates me is something that I love to do (wow, egocentric much?).
That was when I remembered that I’m writing for an official institute and we’re going, more specifically, for why we write as students, and the excitement dissipated a little.
Then I asked myself: why is it any different?
Why is there a line drawn between writing for personal enjoyment or expression, and writing as a student? Who’s to say your motivation has to shift when moving from one activity to the next?
Don’t hate me for what I’m asking you to do next, but go back to high school English with me. Briefly, because high school is not a time any of us want to visit again for long. Do you remember reading George Orwell’s 1984? Did it scare the crap out of you? It did me, because Orwell and I ran on the same wavelength — it wasn’t just a fun little scary story he shared around a campfire to spook his buddies; he wrote that novel as a very real and very necessary warning of totalitarianism, of communism, of a too-big government sticking it’s nose too deep in everyone’s business, of the loss of free-will and independence.
Well, good ol’ George also said at some point in his life: “when I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
I first read those words in a dystopian literature course I took at the community college I attended before transferring to UH. I remember being hunched over a little, ink pouring onto the pages of my journal as an extremely diverse group of young adults discussed some really heavy themes from classic dystopian novels, and I remember having a eureka moment. I remember thinking, that’s it. We write to be heard, to be given a voice, to expose a lie or proclaim a truth.
Except there are still a lot of reasons we write. To tell a truth and to be heard, however, is probably the most accurate summation I’ve heard, and it’s one that can be applied to both personal and academic writings.
You’re probably thinking, “But this isn’t applicable to my field! I’m never going to write!”
I’m here to tell you that words and writing will and always will be applicable to your field. Communication, both oral and written, is and always will be necessary, whether you’re working on a personal narrative, a lab report, an argumentative piece, or any other type of writing.
In your classes, you will, no doubt, be asked to make a claim and to support it with facts. When you make that claim in your literary analysis or lab report and support it with facts, you’ll be utilizing many aspects of the writing process, like a thesis statement and grammar and outlines — you will need to know how to communicate clearly and effectively.
We’re here to help you learn and grow more familiar with the writing process. As stated on the University of Houston Writing Center’s website:
Writing is thinking. It is an indispensable activity for every discipline conducting research within a university setting and an essential component of a university education. Ongoing instruction in writing helps to initiate students into the changing intellectual demands of university life and introduces them to the complexities of their chosen disciplines and professions. Because writing provides the tools to discover and articulate solutions to intellectual problems, improved writing remains a continual goal of university education.
To put it into layman’s terms — writing is essential in your coursework, and it will continue to be essential in your future career. I know that sounds like world-shattering news, but it can be really exciting if you approach writing with an open mind. Think about it like this: writing well offers opportunities to think deeper and to discover new ideas, as well as new ways of presenting ideas.
And what could be better than that?