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.
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.