Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Wordy Knowledge

My knowledge about writing arrived through my curiosity and interest in words. As a young child I was enthralled by the things that could be contained within a few pages and could not wait until I could decode what those little black symbols meant. I can remember sitting for hours as my mother, my father or anyone else who was literate, read me story after story. I formed a relationship with language as soon as I encountered the magic of a good story because I understood that the key to a fascinating story was how it was told; in other words, words are the foundation of our perceptions. My first instinct was to answer the question of how I gathered knowledge about writing was to say that I learned what I know in school but now that I re-examine things it is clear that everything I know about what writing is came from my experiences with it and not from learning about grammar, literary devices and citations (although, these things definitely helped when I wanted to perform the act of writing).

After years of only being able to listen to the words on the page I learned how to write them. Although by this time I had come up with my own version of writing that did not incorporate words at all. I had learned that writing was not always done with words and that sometimes one could write using only pictures. I think my mother still has a few of the stories I “wrote” only by drawing pictures to express what I wanted to say. Thus the term ‘writing’ came to mean expressing a thought or feeling.
Now that I was armed with the decoder key, I could peruse books as I pleased and understand what gems they held. I could even start writing a few of my own. I wrote cards, letters, lists, stories and even poems. It seemed that I was never without something to mark with. This is when I began keeping a journal.

My journal became the place where I would go to sort out any conflicts I had been having. I whined and complained to my journal, I divulged my deepest secrets and made countless lists of things I had done or things I would like to do. Keeping a journal helped me understand that writing was not only an expression of a thought or feeling but it was also a means to an end. I found I could not think things through clearly until I had written down what was on my mind.

I truly believe that experience is the best teacher. Learning something in the classroom has its place of course but without anywhere to apply your new-found knowledge one loses touch of the true essence of the thing we learned. Language is a good example of this; if a person learns French and then never speaks it, he or she might retain some of the technical truths about the language but will lose the fluidity of it. Thus I can confidently say that my knowledge about what writing means comes from my experiences of doing it. My life has taught me that writing is an essential tool needed to learn who you are and how you feel. Experience has also taught me that writing does not necessarily happen with words, it is not necessarily found in storybooks and it does not have to be full developed thoughts. What my life experiences have taught me about writing has lead me to believe that writing is an expression of a thought or feeling (fully or not) and it is a map to our minds whether we are writing a grocery list, a journal entry or an article in the New York Times.

Jessica Sloan


  1. As a fellow "writer," I believe that writing needs to be an essential function of our lives. This is why many of us, who are not in the profession of writing, keep blogs, journals, etc. Much like you said about learning another language and losing it, if you only use writing when it's required, you never become as proficient in it. Like everything in life, it takes practice (albeit most people take it for granted and don't think of writing as something you should practice...)

    I try to practice writing whenever I can via my blog; it doesn't matter who reads it, if I make any money (none :P), or if people will like me (again, none :P); all that matters is that it hopefully helps me become a more powerful, meaningful and fluent writer. Empires have been built, wars have been fought and ideas have been realized with words. That is their awesome, indestructable power. But it comes with practice.

    Great post! Keep up the good work!

  2. It's been 8 days since an update... are you struggling with the daily struggle?