On Writing

What is writing? What does it mean to write?

In thinking about those questions do you need more information before you can answer? If so, why do you feel that way?

How is all writing the same, or can all writing ever be the same? Is some writing inherently better than other writing? If so, how do you know which is which? Is that something you decide or something others decide for you?

Is writing a means or an end? Both? Always?

Does the written word inherently have value? Does the act of writing inherently have value?

I ask these questions to separate writing from the context in which writing takes place. Yes, context matters, always, but context is not writing. Writing is writing.

I believe all writing is communication. Writing can also be art and commerce, but I think the implications of writing as communication are worth considering.

You don’t have to agree with me, of course, but if you’re interested in writing for any reason — and I mean any reason at all — I don’t want you to confuse writing with fame, fortune or being an author, because those are separate things. They may spring from writing, but they are not writing.

There are many people in the world — tens if not hundreds of millions — for whom writing is intensely personal and private. These people use writing as a means of reflection and meditation. Most of their writing will never be shown to another human being yet still provides communication with the self.

If you have an interest in writing, protect it. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what your educational background is or isn’t, or anything else. Don’t let anyone trivialize or denigrate your interest in writing.

There are people who believe words are sacred and only certain people should be allowed to use them. Words are not sacred. You are sacred. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is to be ignored.

There is a lot in life that cannot be communicated through language, let alone writing. At times there really are no words. Encountering the limits of writing is as interesting as discovering what writing can do.

You are not obligated to tell anyone that you are interested in writing. You get to keep your interest private unless you want to talk about it. You don’t have to justify it or defend it, and no one who cares about you will ask you to.

What is writing? You get to choose.

— Mark Barrett


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