Is Writing Essential?

Writing makes my life better. I’m better when I write and I’m better when others write and I read their stories.

When I have an audience, I’m clear. I’m better at being focused and unfolding my meaning with thoughtful intention. My words pack a punch because I craft for power, making sure my spelling and conventions back up my meaning. An audience offers feedback and nudges my thinking, making me a better writer, forcing me to live a better story.

When I write between the covers of my notebook, I’m raw. I’m better at being fearless in my notebook. Things don’t have to be thought-out, scoured through for what might be right and what might be wrong. My notebook doesn’t judge me when I’m in the process of sorting things out. My notebook doesn’t judge me when I’m learning a new craft move. My notebook doesn’t judge me when my content and craft take over my spelling and conventions. My notebook offers me a place to be vulnerable, making me a better writer, forcing me to live a better story.

My notebook is all kinds of comfort and an audience makes my palms sweaty. If I’m not careful, I could hole up in my notebook. I don’t have to risk embarrassment or getting something wrong. I don’t have to risk hurting feelings or feeling stupid.

So I wonder why share my story? Why encourage others to share their stories? Does it matter? Would the world be a better place if we just holed up in our notebooks and never shared our words.

I don’t think so.

Story changes the world. The only way our story is shared is if we are brave enough to give it, to offer it, to believe it will make the world a better place.

Do we have to write to share our stories?

Nope. The simple answer is no, no we do not. As Tom Romano shares in Write What Matters, “Writing is not essential to a well-lived life.”

I have to admit, these words sting a bit. Sometimes the truth hurts. Writing is not essential to a well-lived life. Andy doesn’t write, and yet I know of no one who lives life better.

Writing isn’t essential for a well-lived life.

I supposed this same case could be made for reading and math, too. They aren’t essential for a well-lived life. Although it makes me cringe as much as the thought of writing being inessential for a well-lived life. I’m still not sure I believe it, that these things aren’t essential for a well-lived life.

If I boil it down to the bones, I find I’m left with story. It’s not fair to keep it hidden. It’s not enough to hold it and never share it. Whether we talk or draw or write our stories, the important thing is we share them with an audience.

We’ve gotta share our stories with a real, live, genuine audience. Because what I know for sure is when we take our stories out, with our hearts pounding and our palms sweaty, we become alive and the world becomes better. We understand one another in new ways and we gain grace. Story will only change the world if we share them.

This is why writing workshop is an essential part of education. We must learn to share our stories because they are part of something bigger than ourselves.

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  1. Writing isn't essential to me, but having a story and sharing that bit of my life has become essential to being me. I would have never written a word to share if it weren't for the stories you shared. I just wish I'd known this a long time ago, but now I know and I thank you Ruth for creating the writer in me.

  2. Having writing workshop in my classes all the years helped me know my students better because they shared their stories, digging deeply into their lives & sharing. I am proud that I gave them that opportunity, & know many who have continued to be writers. I've always written, but sharing across the world has opened new ideas to me of what I value for my life. You, as Elsie said, are part of that. I'm glad you didn't stay quiet and told your stories, sweaty palms and all.

  3. Your words are filled with passion. Anyone who has let writing reach their core understands what you mean. In many ways writing can become as essential as breathing.I am very glad that you write and share and encourages others to do the same.

  4. Ruth I love how your process of self examination. I'd say that sharing our stories are essential. That how we share is different and the challenge is to find our way. I also think we expand the definition of writing every day. Thank you for this reflection.