Why your writing matters

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    To read some reports, you’d think it’s all over for writing.

    You won’t need to write because:

    • algorithms will write for you,
    • you’ll be totally engaged in creating videos along with everyone else,
    • you’ll be immersed in a world of augmented reality, never to return and

    • if you manage to stick around long enough, you’ll be communicating by thought. One mind to another. (That’s a scary thought.)

    Well, hold on a minute.

    Humans have been writing for thousands of years, and we’ll continue to write long into the future. Videos etc. are simply other ways of communicating. They’ll augment writing, not replace it.

    Writing still matters — to you, me and everyone else.

    So what do you do if you want to improve your writing skills?

    Actually, you already have those skills.

    From writing all the time.

    In your posts on Facebook or Twitter. In emails to family and friends. In your memos to your boss. In the business plan you’re writing for your startup company.

    So it’s a question of improving your skills. By building on what you already have.

    Some suggestions:

    Keep a personal journal

    Buy a notebook and write in it every day for 15 or 30 minutes.

    Whatever comes to mind.

    If you don’t know where to begin, author Anne Lamont suggests you start with your childhood, whether you had a wonderful or not-so-wonderful childhood.

    As for the writing, ‘Don’t worry about doing it well yet, though,” she advises in her book Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. “just start getting it down.”

    The act of writing, of putting pen to paper, helps you free your emotions, bring ideas to light and discover the pleasure — and pain — of writing.

    There’s another reason to keep a journal.

    For posterity.

    I have a photo of my grandparents, John and Mary Cunningham, with their children, including my mother. It was probably taken in the 1920s, and here it is hanging on my office wall nearly a hundred years later.

    While I have the photo, I don’t have anything written by my grandparents. No journal, no letters, nothing.

    I’d like to have heard from them, through their correspondence.

    Fifty or a hundred years from now, your descendants could be saying the same thing about you if you don’t leave any of your writing behind.

    But your journal could have value beyond your family.

    We’ve learned much about the American Revolution or the Civil War and other periods of our history from the letters and other correspondence of people who lived during those times.

    By writing a journal, and keeping it for posterity, you can help future generations learn what life was like in the early 21st century.

    You’ll be part of a conversation that continues for decades — and perhaps for centuries.

    Join a writing group

    Many communities have writing groups where people get together to talk about what they’re writing about, share some of their writing and learn about what others are writing.

    People in these groups come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, and they have many different reasons for writing.

    Some are working on personal journals or memoirs. Others are writing books. Still others teach classes in writing and other subjects.

    What they enjoy is the opportunity to meet other writers, make new friends and get some ideas on how to improve their writing.

    To find a local group, search online using “writing groups” or similar terms and the name of your city. Check with your local library. Ask around.

    If you can’t find a local group that interests you, search for an online group.

    Read widely

    Among my friends, some of the best writers are widely read. They read novels, biographies, histories, investigative reports, mysteries, science fiction, how-to books — you name it.

    You can learn from what others have written. The author of the book or other work not only is telling you a story but in subtle ways showing you how to write.

    So read widely.

    If detective stories are your favorites, challenge yourself by reading something new and different. Find new ways of looking at the world.

    Read books on writing

    If you want to get advice on how to develop you writing skills, there are any number of books on the subject.

    Books like Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.

    Or Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips For Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty. She actually makes it fun to study grammar.

    Then there’s The Elements of Style, a simple, elegant book on writing. It’s gone through many revisions and updates under the authorship of William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. It’s a classic.

    If you’re in business, check out Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes book for tips on how to create stellar writing that attracts customers or clients. It’s billed in the subtitle as “Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.”

    Search online, in the bookstores and at your library for more advice on writing.

    Help others

    As you develop your writing skills, helps others to do the same.

    Help your children, friends and relatives in your circle to improve their reading and writing skills.

    Volunteer for a program in your community that helps people learn to read and write.

    Start a book club in your community.

    After all, writing is a shared experience.

    And a legacy for generations to come.

    James Carberry

    jim-carberryA former Wall Street Journal reporter, I provide writing and editing services to business clients. I draw on my years of experience as a journalist and corporate writer to create content that helps you connect with your audiences, promote your brand and attract customers or clients.

    Check out more of James’ articles on his website: Carberry Communications

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