Writing is a Super Power

Last night, I gave a brief speech to the seventh graders essay winners, though as it turned out, there were way more family members than there were school kids, so as I talked, I had to adjust what I was saying to address everyone. The following is as close as I can recall to what I actually said:

When I was asked to talk to you about the importance of writing, I immediately sat down and began writing. I listed all the ways writing was important, then I asked my writer friends what they thought was important.

I condensed all of that down into a few points I thought might be of interest. I’d geared this talk to the essayists, but what I have to say applies to everyone. I was going to try to memorize what I wanted to say, but then I realized [I waved my page of notes] what I have here is an example of writing and why it’s important. Writing helps us condense our thoughts and helping us remember. But writing is more than that. 

I’m sure all of you have read stories or seen movies about wizards and magic, super heroes and super powers and have wished you could have a super power too. Well, you do have a super power. Writing might not be as dramatic as poofing someone or something to change them, and it’s much slower, but what we write can change people, events, the world, and ourselves.

Writing is magic. At its core, writing is the ability to transform thoughts, ideas, and emotions into to written word. It takes what is in your mind and allows other people to experience a part of you.

When we talk of writing, we often mean writing stories, writing to entertain people.

To a large extent, what makes us human, what connects us to one another, is our ability to tell a story. A joke is a story. What you tell your friends or your parents about your day is a story. Something you post about yourself online is a story. An advertisement is a story — it tells a story of what your life will be like if you buy that product.

Your essays told a story.

Writing isn’t only about telling stories. It’s about us. About life. About communicating with one another and even with ourselves.

Some of you are going through changes in your lives. You might be experiencing more than you can explain using an emoticon. You can be happy and sad, angry and confused, all at the same time. Sometimes you won’t know how you feel. But writing what you are feeling can help you understand what you are going through, and that will help you to deal with it.

On a broader level, writing is an essential life skill. It is the primary basis upon which you and your work will be judged—in school, in a job, and in the community. If you write well, you can communicate well. If you can communicate well, you can succeed.

Writing is at the center of everything we modern humans do. Language is part of our DNA. It is part of our birthright as human beings. Whenever you write, whatever you write — a story, a diary entry, a post on the internet, an essay, you are engaging in a form of wizardry using letters and words.

And that’s your super power.

Thank you.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Why is Writing Important?

I’ve been asked to give a brief talk to seventh graders about the importance of writing, which has led me to question if writing really is important. Luckily, the ceremony has been postponed for a week, which gives me plenty of time to come up with an appropriate answer.

Only a small percentage of writers have ever made a living at writing (and most of those were people who wrote books on how to make a living at writing), and that percentage seems to be shrinking. More than 80% of books sell fewer than 100 copies. Maybe 50% sell only about ten copies or so. So, why write? The wonder of writing fiction is that a story born in one mind grows to full power in another mind. But what if you don’t have readers, or at least not many? And why take the time to learn the craft since some of the books that do sell are poorly written tripe?

In the end, it’s the writing that counts. The story.

So much of communication for us humans is story telling. A joke is a story. What you tell about your day is a story. Something you post about yourself online is a story. An advertisement is a story — it tells a story of what your life will be like if you buy that product.

But writing isn’t only about story. It’s about us. About life.

Writing is a super power. What we write can change people, events, the world, and even ourselves.

Writing is the primary basis upon which our work is judged—in college, in the work place and in the community.

Writing is magic. At its core, writing is the ability to transform thoughts, ideas, and emotions into to written word, into something tangible.

When we talk of writing, we often mean writing stories, writing to entertain people. This sort of writing truly is magic since the story that is born in one mind grows to full power in another mind.

Writing, whether fiction, nonfiction, blogs, or social updates is about communicating. Writing helps us with communication and thinking skills. If we write well, we communicate well. If we communicate well, we can succeed.

Writing brings worlds to life and recalls them from ages long past.

Writing makes our thoughts, our learning, our memories permanent and visible to others.

Writing can preserve thoughts, emotions and ideas long after the writer has left this earth. Sometimes, other people’s writing is all we have to learn about previous eras.

Writing helps us develop our ideas and allows us to explain those ideas to others and to ourselves. Writing expresses who we are as individuals and as a people. Writing can help us understand our lives.

Writing is good for health. It helps relieve stress, improves our mood, and increases brain function. And since writing helps us understand our life, it improves our mental health and guides us through traumatic times.

Writing is a left-brained structured/regimented activity that can marry with right-brained images/insights/artistry and create something powerful and life-changing

Writing is at the center of everything we do. Language is part of our DNA. It is part of our birthright as human beings. Whenever we write, whatever we write — a story, a diary entry, a post on the internet, an essay, we are engaging in a form of wizardry using letters and words.

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A special thanks to Rami Ungar and everyone else who contributed to this list.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Giving a Talk to Seventh Graders

If you were giving a talk to seventh graders about writing, what would you focus on?

The historical museum sponsored an essay contest, and tomorrow night is the award ceremony. A woman from the museum will be talking about the historical aspect of the contest, and I have been invited to talk about the writing aspect.

One suggestion was for me to talk the importance of writing, and how it could lead to a writing career, but I so do not want to disillusion the poor kids before they find out that writing is a career for only a select few. For so many of us, writing is important in various ways, and though we would like to make a living at it, writing itself has to be the reward.

Another suggestion was to talk about how the grasp of writing is important in getting a job, but I don’t know if that’s still true. Is it? The world is changing so quickly that much of what used to be considered slang seems to be acceptable (like, duh). Now it’s anyone’s guess as to the place writing will have by the time these kids enter the job market.

If it were a group of adults, I could talk about the importance of writing (journaling) when one is going through a crisis, but I certainly can’t talk about how writing can help one deal with the loss of a spouse, and I certainly won’t give them nightmares by talking about writing in dealing with the possible loss of a parent.

I could talk about the importance of story, but “story” isn’t always about writing — it can be also be visual or spoken. (Or unspoken if one has ESP) Or I could talk about the importance of writing as communication, but again, there are other ways of communicating besides just writing.

The talk doesn’t have to be very long, but it needs to be fun, entertaining, and helpful. And something seventh graders can relate to. Eek. How did I get myself this situation? Oh, right — I agree to do it.

So, any suggestions for what should I say?

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.