Why Writing Isn’t Terrible: In Defense of Writing for Pleasure

Essays, assignments, articles, job applications, personal statements, reports, write-ups, presentations. Countless tasks we encounter at work and school require us to write. Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, blog posts. On a daily basis, much of the time we spend communicating with others is used tapping letters into an interface.

All of this occurs by writing.

However, there’s no doubt that the first set of examples is markedly more vilified than the second set. Few would say that they’d rather write an essay over a lengthy Facebook post on any given topic. Writing a cover letter is like getting a root canal in comparison to writing anything on social media.

When considering what it is that separates the two categories, it seems that their largest difference lies in that the one is considered “work” and while the other is considered “play.” Although keeping up with social media can certainly be demanding at times, most of us don’t view it as a job or chore. In contrast, reports and presentations – even for jobs or classes that we enjoy – are often thought of as sheer toil.

So is it the amount of brainpower expended that makes us revile at essay writing so much? Is it the time spent? Or the energy? As humans, we might dislike writing because we want to conserve our limited resources of time, energy, and willpower. Or is it the emotional benefit we receive from social media? In other words, the benefit we get from connecting with friends is typically greater than that spent writing memoirs and memorandums.

The reason why most people dislike writing is likely some combination of the two; the perceived benefit doesn’t outweigh the costs of spending time and energy doing something difficult. However, the fact that novelists, poets, and musicians create their works signifies that there’s something to be gained from writing – they all elevate writing to an art form, using it to express complexity, deal with difficulty, and celebrate what is good.

What it boils down to is that writing can help us think. It can help us flesh out rich thoughts, clarify complex ideas, and parse what is relevant in our multitude of opinions. Who hasn’t experienced a new thought or revelation while writing a thank you note, work memo, important email, or long-overdue text?

If you think about it, we write for pleasure every day. Take blogs for example. Inherently, blogs are supposed to be about things we enjoy discussing: travelling, eating, meeting people, visiting the rare and unexplored, politics, fashion, cooking, TV, movies, literally anything else. Every time we tweet 140 characters, we’re writing for pleasure. Just expand that. Or not. Write exactly that. You don’t always need to tweet about that burrito you had for lunch or how wild your weekend was, but sometimes you do! Just break free of the notion that you have to do these things on social media. Your writing of your thoughts provides more benefit than just updating your friends on what you’re doing.

Start writing on your smartphone at lunch. When you say something witty or insightful, jot it down. Use those notes as a way to delve deeper into those topics. Think about starting a blog. There’s no shame in writing banal and clichéd posts at first. Use them as a springboard to talk about what’s underneath it all.

Once you change your attitude toward what writing is (instead of a chore, think of it as a method to develop your personal understanding), you can more easily make writing a habit. So write it down – maybe you’ll like it. You’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process.

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