It's great when you read some research that confirms what you already believe. This happened recently when I came upon some research that found that writing is a helpful thing to do. As often happens, I also came across some comments that now that everyone is a writer we are losing the power of literary competence. There's always more than one way to see things I guess.
It's really quite obvious that writing is beneficial to us. It provides us with a way to make sense of our lives. This is so important when our world seems to be more and more complex.There's an overload of information that we need to sort through on a daily basis. If we watch the news, keep a check on twitter and other social media sites and simply listen to people we will hear many, many ideas.
We are able to see and hear about what is happening not just in our own neighborhood but all around the world. We hear stories that can make us fearful and sad. We hear (probably less) stories that bring us hope or joy. These stories can help us feel more connected with each other. The saturation of the 24 hour news cycle means we are constantly inundated with facts, mysteries and information. It's so different to the past when the daily (or twice daily) newspaper and nightly news were the main sources of information about the world around us. So writing, for some of us at least, plays a role for us in consolidating and sorting through this myriad of information.This might just help us to gain a sense of control over some of it.
Writing also gives us the opportunity to purge some of our thoughts and feelings onto a screen (or paper if we still like the feeling of the pen or pencil in our hand and want to hold the tangible outcome of our work immediately). This purging helps to let out some of the feelings and thoughts that can build up otherwise. We can feel better after we have a say, let others know what we think and share our ideas.
We might be ever cautious about the audience for this purging and choose which aspects of our writing, of ourselves, become public, which are shared with people closest to us and which might stay as our personal reflections - like the old fashioned diary. Working this out can take some time and can become like a risk assessment exercise for us as we negotiate our way in the powerful world of social networks. A few words can do damage if we aren't careful. But with the 24 hour news cycle those words are also quickly replaced by others so any harm could be reduced or disappear within minutes.
Writing leaves something for the generations that follow. It gives insight into the world we currently live in. It provides a lens to the things that happen, the things that are important to us. They can become a rich explanation, maybe saving future archaelogists valuable time in pulling together what our lifestyle and civilisation is really like. So writing is in some ways providing a community service for future researchers.
At a personal level,writing can help us in our life journey or self knowledge. By reflecting on something we have written at an earlier time, we might gain an insight, a sense of enlightenment, about ourselves and what makes us who we are. We might have forgotten the details of what happened before, the strength of the feelings we had in the past. Seeing the words on the page that we have written can be transformative in helping us gain a deeper understanding of our own life journey. Writing for ourselves can then be very satisfying, almost like our own personal counsellor in our pockets.
Writing for others is more complex. Writing with an audience in mind is quite a different thing. Wondering what they will think, wondering if you are expressing yourself clearly, wondering about the judgments they might make about your choice of words, wondering whether you are making any sense at all. Managing to find a voice that speaks to others takes time. Perhaps it's really about finding the voice for yourself first that's important. Then the audience can follow, if they choose.
Thank goodness for writing. It serves so many functions in our world right now. It helps us individually and as a community. It is perhaps a new way of coming together. A way that replaces some of the face to face connections we've had more of in the past. A way to connect beyond our own small community or family networks but to reach out to new frontiers.