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Why We Write: Four Reasons

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4 Reasons Why We Write

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From wood and glue and stain and nails, and using saws and files and brushes and hammers, I made something that had a special nature of its own.

It was a thing with its own character that transcended its components. This is more than saying, "The whole is more than its parts. Years before that, we lived in a different area of South Africa where it was much wetter. The yard had some patches of muddy clay that were wonderfully sticky and hard - perfect for molding into shapes, in my opinion. The nose was easy; any small, round pebble would do.

But the ears, which I molded out of the clay, were really tough. I never gave up on them, though. I went through a period of making lots of clay figures, which I then stored in my bedroom. Those shapes, too, had a special nature to them, a solid, material reality that set them apart from, and above, the vague shapes I had imagined ahead of time and which I was trying to reproduce in solid form. All of this is a common childhood experience.

Children of every type are drawn to the arts and have the urge to create. For various reasons, the urge fades away or is suppressed in most of us. Some of us, though, are bedeviled by it for the rest of our lives.

Above, I said that ideas arrive in multitudes and the problem for most writers is choosing which ideas to spend time working on. What form those ideas take, how detailed they are, how they feel in the mind surely must vary greatly from one writer to another. In my case, the ideas are almost always gimmicks, as I call them.

What would happen if the sun vanished? Which became my novel Central Heat. What would it be like on a world where huge mines extended beneath much of the surface and most of the population spent their lives underground?

Business Secrets from the Stars At that stage, the gimmicks are jostling around in my head with a bunch of other gimmicks. I may like some of them more than others. I may feel that some seem more promising than others. None of them has any sense of texture or character or solidity.

The next step comes when I decide to spend some time playing around with a particular gimmick. At that point, I start thinking about a plot. How does the sun vanish, and what happens to some specific individuals as a result?

Why does our protagonist find himself in the underground mines, and what happens to him there? What zany and satirical adventures befall the guy who writes the bestselling book of supposedly channeled business advice?

These synopses tend to get long and detailed and include some scene descriptions. The aim is to end up with enough detail so that I can start writing the novel without worrying about running into major plot problems along the way. Somewhere during this synopsis-writing process, I stop seeing the idea or gimmick as just an idea or gimmick and start seeing it as a novel. It has taken on a character, a nature, a solidity of its own in the same way as the dinner tray did, but in this case, it has become something real, even with a personality, before it has any kind of physical existence.

At that point, I have assumed an obligation. A lot of writers, including me, do indeed feel that way. Of course my books are not on a par with my real child. At the same time, because each book seems to me to have a distinct personality, or at least to be imbued with some kind of elementary life and personality, and because each one is my offspring in an admittedly vague and abstract sense, I do feel toward them a need to protect and nurture them.

I should have said, parental responsibility. Once the idea has progressed from being a gimmick to being a mental image of a novel, a proto-novel, I have an obligation, a parental responsibility, to protect, guide, and nurture this child of my mind until it is mature enough to enter the world on its own. I feel that I am required to bring it from this embryonic stage to full, complete existence - novelhood, rather than personhood.

This is a very serious and very real moral duty: The parallel with parenthood goes even further. Just as a parent never stop wanting his child to have a happy life and to be appreciated and loved by others as he is appreciated and loved by his parent, so an author wants his books to have a happy journey through the world and to be appreciated and loved by others.

There is egotism in this, of course. I want people to admire my books and to extend that admiration to me. But I also feel - and I know how strange this will sound - that the books deserve the happiness of being loved and that they will be sad and lonely if they are not, if the world ignores them.

The good author wants to love all his books equally, but often one stands out as the favorite. For me, the favorite is my novel Business Secrets from the Stars. I keep all of this well bottled up. This process of giving an idea, a thought, an external reality, a physical existence, has a great deal of power. A lot of people write journals about their lives as a way of dealing with events and feelings. They could mull those events and feelings over in their minds, but putting them down on paper, externalizing them, in a sense looking at them from the outside, can make the difficult or painful ones easier to deal with.

It may be a relatively small thing that is nonetheless an ongoing annoyance. I used to lecture myself and try to cast all of that away from me, but without success. So I put it all in a book. That was Business Secrets from the Stars. It started out as a clever gimmick and was intended to be just a comic novel. But as I wrote the book, the protagonist, Malcolm Erskine, acquired exaggerated versions of the very things I dislike in myself.

Writing that novel - which I should add is utterly, utterly brilliant and everyone in the world should own a copy - was therapeutic.

It let me laugh at the silliness of those dark aspects of my character instead of just fretting and feeling guilty about them. Some time after I stopped making wolf heads out of backyard clay, I started writing stories.

Later, I progressed to starting what I projected as immense science fiction adventure novels of galactic scope. A page or two was usually the limit, although I sometimes included full-page illustrations of scenes or ideas from the intended books.

All of this was hand written. My handwriting was awful, despite writing classes taught with all the grimness and thoroughness of the South African school system of those days, so it was hard for me to make out the great adventures I had written down a few days earlier. Despite all of that, I used to look at the one or two pages I managed to write in one stretch and feel delighted at their very existence.

They were much more than paper with writing on them. They had become something else, and I had created them. Still later, in high school in America, I acquired a portable typewriter and started writing incomplete stories and novels on that. Eventually, I managed to finish stories. I loved to hold the finished product.

I even loved to hold the papers I typed for school, much as I hated writing those and hated school itself. In all cases, the thin pile of papers was something with its own nature, something I had formed, brought into existence. Eventually, I produced a complete novel using that portable typewriter. All of the feelings I had had about those other, much smaller stacks of paper - delight about the existence of the physical manuscript and amazement that what I had created, the story, characters, ideas, were somehow mysteriously contained inside - were there again, but much more powerful and longlasting.

I wrote my first few novels on the manual typewriter and then moved on to an electric. The pleasure of beholding the physical manuscript continued.

But I was getting tired of retyping pages and of the difficulty of making major changes to a novel after a significant part of it had been typed.

I was waiting eagerly for desktop computers to become powerful enough and cheap enough to take the place of the typewriter. I should explain that I had been using mainframe and mini computers at work for years, as an aerospace engineer and then as a programmer, so I knew what should be possible.

We have the capacity to learn how to reason, but that capacity does not come to fruition without careful nurturing. Just as the skilled athlete has, through diligent effort and application, honed physical capacities that are inherent but not well developed in most human beings, so the skilled thinker has studied and trained himself to apply mental skills in a manner beyond the reach of most untrained minds.

The exercise of rational thought or procedure to analyze a subject and to express in an orderly way the judgments arrived at through such analysis is called "discourse.

Virtually all of the writing required of a student in high school or college should be discursive, and it is a truly unfortunate trend that highly personal and so-called "creative" writing has often been allowed to replace discursive writing in much of the curriculum. The function of training in discursive writing is to enable the student to learn the habits and techniques of discursive thought, not to provide him with an outlet for expressing his feelings or "telling his story.

Certainly some types of essay are expressive in these ways, and self-expression is a valid and valuable mode of communication. But such essays are precisely not the sort of writing that students should be doing in most of their classes. When a student draws on his personal experience in discursive writing, it should not be in order to reveal himself, but rather in order to illuminate the subject under discussion.

The examples offered from experience should point not inward, but outward, to universal concerns. Unfortunately, though, in our confessional culture virtually all discourse gets co-opted by the impulse toward self-revelation.

The etymology of the word "discourse" is particularly interesting in this context. It comes to us from Latin, through French, and the word it derives from means to run back and forth. The purpose of discursive reasoning and writing is to "run back and forth" over a subject until it is completely understood-- i.

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Why Do We Make Our Students Write Essays? Posted on April 13, by Jon David Groff under TQS Meaningful Learning Activities, TQS Moral/Ethical Framework, TQS Understand the Subject My blog post is a response to this blog post by the same title, written by Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, an educational leader, researcher, author, and professional speaker. Someone get a gun and shoot me. That’s a lot of competition. Seriously though, why do we write? Why are all of us pursuing writing in the face of the increasingly limited attention spans of the broader public?

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Custom writing essays can seem like a hard task but it is not. All you have to do is understand your subject matter and you are good to go. The problem with most students is that they do not have a grasp of what they study and therefore are unable to write a paper or . For most Chinese students studying in the US, the question ‘why do we write essays’ has become a concern with no clear reasons as to why this virtue is emphasized in college.