Staring at a blank Word document when a major paper is due the next day is an experience that everyone has at one point or another. While on a normal day, the white expanse is full of possibility, once under pressure it suddenly becomes a hindrance, a daunting adversary that is almost impossible to overcome. Some people tackle the problem by putting the assignment off for later. Some just stare at the screen until they have a flash of brilliance. I personally just start doing something else until I think of something witty to start with.
But no matter how much you suffer from writer’s block, writing itself shouldn’t be seen as a drag. It’s a form of expression that will be a major asset in any future endeavor, from writing college apps to job applications. It’s a medium to express your feelings, a tool to reach the masses. While writing that paper in school may be the bane of your existence, it’s merely the beginning of the rest of your life. You may not have to write another 10 page essay, but you will need fundamental skills, like the ability to write a thesis, to analyze and synthesize sources, to provide your own commentary. It’s a set of skills that will come in handy in any facet of life.
As much as freshman teachers attempt to emphasize it, writing doesn’t consist of some cookie cutter formula of concrete detail and commentary. It’s a medium to convey ideas, not a mold for you to vomit words. Once you break out of that mindset, suddenly, writing becomes much more fluid. Imagine writing as a look into your mind, a simple transcript of your voice. It’s not a paper as much as it is a conversation, albeit a bit one sided, between you and your audience. When viewed that way, writing suddenly becomes not so much a burden as much as a simple form of self expression.
But turning ideas into words requires practice. And as a result, schools place a large emphasis on being able to write. It may seem like the worst part of English, but much like caviar, you may learn to love it after a while. Going into AP English Language, taking an on demand essay a week seemed impossible, but as the weeks went on, I learned to embrace the on demand Fridays, which allowed me to hone my skills and provided a medium to articulate my interpretations of the nuances of a piece of writing. What I just wrote may seem to be on the list of things you will never want to do, but as with many other things, practice is essential. And once you see improvement, it becomes something that you will definitely want to do.
So far, we’ve just covered the methods of writing. And learning to love to write is crucial. Because writing in high school is just the start. When applying to college, there are the essays that college prep books talk about all the time. When applying to a job writing a cover letter may seem like a formality, but it’s a introductory look into your character and achievements. When corresponding with coworkers via email, the ability to write formally and clearly is mandatory.
Yet from the examples so far, it seems like the whole concrete detail and commentary that schools promote is hardly used at all. But the physical writing is only one part of the equation. Writing is also a gateway to developing your critical thinking skills. When reading a news article, suddenly, the whole idea of concrete detail and commentary becomes applicable in real life. Granted, you may not be writing a précis, but the ability to extract the important details and form your own conclusions is still an important part of becoming an educated citizen.
But in the end, no matter how you use the skills you gain from writing in the future, it’s ultimately a tool for communication. Whether it be through text, email, blog, or posting on a website, writing is a quintessential part of life, a tool to spread your ideas and grow as an individual. So pick up a pencil and start writing. Don’t worry if it’s not your best work. Because in time, it will be.