At some point in life we all have the opportunity to write an essay. Whether one sees it as an unfortunate chance or an exciting one is up to them. But why do we write? What is the point of English teachers forcing us to write essays and other writing projects? Contrary to popular belief, it is not simply to give their students busy work or take up their precious free time. It’s about communication and how we properly and clearly convey what we’re thinking.
Effective communication means being able to approach an audience with a certain topic on a level that they will understand, often with the desire to influence what they think. This is critical in all aspects of life, from convincing our parents to allow us to stay out a little later than usual to presenting a business plan for the purpose of furthering our career. Whatever the reason for communication, there are a few things that are important to understand about writing that they may not expressly teach you in high school.
One thing that is important to understand is that writing is about you and what you believe. That may seem strange considering more often than not we are assigned essay topics we may or may not agree with while in school. Not only are we given a topic but we’re taught the precise way in which we should write them. While this may be frustrating at times, it gives us a foundation on which we may improve our communication skills in preparation for future opportunities to communicate what we do feel strongly about. For example, you’ll be a lot more persuasive once you understand how to present an argument (or thesis) followed by specific evidence to support that statement than if you just wrote disorganized ideas that may make sense to you but won’t make sense to someone else. Practicing structure over and over in class will make it become subconscious. You’ll begin writing in a well-organized fashion without even thinking about it, thus improving your ability to reach people on their level in a way they will understand.
So, if it’s about what we believe, why do teachers make us write about things we may not care about? Think of it in the context of an argument. The more you know about the other side, the better you can argue your own point. If you only research biased information, you’ll be blind to your opponents’ argument. If you can learn to write persuasively and professionally about something you’re apathetic toward or disagree with, how much more powerful will it be when you write about something you do care about. Particularly if you desire to go into a field that requires any type of writing, being willing and capable of writing about anything (even if you don’t agree with or care about it) will give you a distinct advantage in finding employment.
There are manty fields in which writing of some sort is required, but there may be some who are reading this who desire a job in which you’re paid primarily to write. If this is the case, the second thing you must understand is that your first attempts are not going to be perfect. At some point you are going to reread a piece of your work and be tempted to throw it in a fire and never look back. No matter how horrible it may seem, don’t give up. Just like any other talent or hobby, writing takes practice. It may take several attempts before you get it exactly the way you want it but that’s part of the journey. A basketball player doesn’t make every basket, a singer sometimes misses the proper pitch, a dancer will trip and fall. Whether you’re writing a novel or an essay for a class, don’t give up when it’s not working out the way you hoped.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help either. When you write anything, you’re writing for an audience and you want to make sure they understand what you’re trying to say and don’t get stuck on mistakes. It’s ok to ask others for feedback, including your teacher/professor if it’s for a class. That being said, remember to be humble about the experience. As others read your work, many will simply praise your talent or reply to it with “this is good.” While it’s nice to hear such pleasant feedback, it’s not particularly helpful. Seek out help from people who are willing to give you constructive criticism. It may be hard, but it will give you a much better understanding of how your work can improve. Don’t let negative feedback overwhelm you, however. Not all feedback needs to be applied to your work. Ponder what criticisms you’ve received. and decide what you would like to change or apply to better your writing.
So, why write? To learn to communicate with others in a clear, persuasive way. As you grow up, the need to communicate with others will be unavoidable, no matter what field you go into. If you want to go into writing, give yourself time to practice and don’t give up if you fail. Your first attempts are not going to be perfect. Keep trying and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need to. Strong communication (learned through writing) is key to success, not only academically, but in relationships and occupations as well.