Writing is important because it is a type of practice. It is practice in the use of language and will improve our ability to use it effectively. Using language effectively can help us to become more connected and more aligned with the people in our life.
In this way, language is a tool. Although we might not immediately think of it this way, it’s true. Language is a tool that we’ve created to make a certain process (i.e. communication) easier. It is standardized, reliable, and serves a clear purpose.
Writing As Maintenance
If we think of language as a tool, and we understand that it has a clear function of improving communication, then the logical next step is to figure out how to use it correctly and effectively.
Consistently writing does just that because it improves our understanding of all the aspects of language, which makes us better equipped to use it effectively in our everyday lives.
Writing is how we sort through our thoughts and experiences and how we understand them in ways that translate into language. When we sit down to write—that is to write authentically—we are not simply spilling our scattered thoughts down for some imaginary reader, but we are trying to align our feelings and thoughts in a way that can be understood and expressed on an emotional level. Through the process of editing and revising our writing we learn how we are using language incorrectly and how we can be more clear and effective in communicating our experiences.
Writing also helps us to decide whether our beliefs and thoughts are in alignment with one another and helps us to spot cognitive dissonance when this is the case. This is something that can be incredibly useful, because oftentimes we will say things that we don’t necessarily mean. This creates a conflict between what we say and how we act. The act of writing can help us to try to understand why this is and resolve these dissonances before we solidify them further in our use of language in our daily lives.
Reading As a Maintenance Metric
In addition to writing, reading well is another component in this process. Close reading is essentially a study of the curated thoughts of great people and can help us to understand how to use language more expressively. This is why it’s important to find other writers who use language effectively and in a way that is beneficial to themselves and others. When we read, we are comparing our thoughts with the writers by essentially tracing our own thoughts with the author’s language. It’s as if a sculptor were sculpting their statue by guiding our hands beneath theirs. Even though this might not teach us everything they know, there’s no doubt that we would learn something about sculpting in the process (and most likely also feel very uncomfortable).
This is how it is with reading—we are giving ourselves a metric with which to compare our thinking and use of language. When we read great writers who we resonate with, we start to understand how they think and start to understand how they view language and use it as a tool. As Tyrion Lannister said, “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” If Tyrion said it, it must be true.
This is why writing and reading are so important—they are methods for improving and understanding the tool of language. This endeavor to become better with language and understand how to use it effectively will create a deeper understanding of others in ourselves and helps us to give others a deeper understanding of us.