Why Write?

Okay, I confess: I haven’t been keeping up with my writing. My almost completed writer’s notebook remains almost entirely full and my blog has been stagnant for a few weeks.

I haven’t been writing and I feel miserable and guilty about it.

I have been neglecting one of my most pleasurable pastimes. When I was writing at least five minutes every day I felt at east with life and less stressed.

I write to express myself and sort through my emotions. My writer’s notebook is full of tear-stained pages and pages where my pen could not write fast enough.

I write when I’m angry.

I write when I’m annoyed and/or irritated.

I write when I’m elated.

Humans feel countless emotions which lead to infinite possibilities to write.


I write to reflect on my daily experiences and better understand the world. Because I have not been diligent about my writing, I have been grumpy. I am certain I am not the first writer to experience grumpiness caused by “writing lull” because writing has been happening since 7000 BCE.

When writing first emerged, it took the form of symbols – symbols were once the equivalent of the letters in our modern alphabet. From symbols to ad hoc symbols (i.e. a picture of a sheep to signify sheep), writing has progressed to say the least.


Yet,  has the purpose of writing changed, although writing has transformed?

According to “Rhetoric and Writing in the Ancient Near East,” writing in earlier forms was used to manage, interpret, and order human reality.

maat“Ma’at” is the idea of order and was a centerpiece for the Egyptian society. In Ancient Egypt, the pyramids served as symbols of order and power. Writing helped the Egyptians to bring order to events, particularly regarding the afterlife.

Ancient Mesopotamia hosted “schooldays” where scribes were trained. In this society, the scribes had influence and power because they were required to be involved in all administrative activity.

Writing allowed societies to manage the numerous facets of daily living. Without writing, chaos would have most likely have ensued.

Writing for order and interpretation is also noted in A Short History of Writing Instruction by James Murphy. When literacy first emerged, writing had social purposes:

A community of writers and readers could benefit from interaction of comment and response.”

Has the purpose of writing changed?

People still write for social purposes: letters, emails, tweets, blogs, etc. These outlets allow people to manage their lives and keep order in their social relationships.

Two Writing Teachers is a prime example of a community of writers. Their blog meme, Slice of Life, happens every Tuesday when teachers and bloggers come together and 11454297503_e27946e4ff_h[1]share their writing. Participants are encouraged to visit other Slicers’ posts and comment on them. Clearly, this community of writers benefits from comment and response.

Esteemed writing figures, such as Lucy Calkins, Nancie Atwell, Penny Kittle, and Peter Elbow, all acknowledge the underlying social reasons for writing. They exemplify this notion through the writing philosophy of “writing workshop.”

In secondary education today, the writing workshop allows students to collaborate, communicate, and contribute to the classroom’s writing environment. I want my students to write for the same reasons I write: communication, reflection, exploration, order, interaction, articulation, and interpretation.

So, my friends, do you think the purpose of writing has changed over the years?