Writing Things Down

Categories Writing

Every student spends considerable time on various writing assignments.  Yet, only a small fraction of the population writes consistently after they leave school.  Eileen Chang, one of the best Chinese writers in modern era, expressed the following opinion on writing (translated from Chinese).

“Most people who reach middle age have some interesting real life experience, and possess unique perspective on humanity.  However, most do not bother to write them down and their insights are lost forever.  Some possess quote-worthy wisdom of life.  Others may just have humorous observations of human conditions.  Grand monuments are built on small parts.  This is a loss to our civilization.”

I know parents nowadays are obsessed with their kids’ SAT score and extracurricular activities. However, the near ubiquitous availability of education is a fairly recent phenomenon.    In 1870, one in five above age of 14 in the U.S. cannot read or write.    Thankfully, we don’t have the problem of illiteracy in the U.S. anymore.   The process of publication was an expensive and laborious process.  Technology has changed that completely.  Writing and dissemination of ideas is virtually free and available to everyone.  Strangely, among the people I know, very few write consistently. Some may say this doesn’t make sense.  There are approximately 160 million blogs (including mine!) online.  However, many blogs are inactive.  160 million is a cumulative figure, including duplication, inactive blogs, etc.  It is impossible to determine the number of active blogs.  I agree more people than ever express their opinions.  However, majority of us still “consume” words rather than “producing” words.

While the technical hurdle to write and publish is gone, writing is still hard.  It requires a fair amount of mental energy.  Writing something coherent is not easy.  Even great writers lament about it from time to time.  Nonetheless, it is worth the effort as future generations could not learn of our wisdom if we do not write it down.

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