1 The importance of writing
1.1 Why write?
Of all aspects of studying, writing is probably the most challenging. That is because when you write down an account of your ideas for other people to read you have to explain yourself particularly carefully. You can't make the mental leaps you do when you are in conversation with others or thinking about something for yourself. To make your meaning clear, using only words on a page, you have to work out exactly what you think about the subject. You come to understand it for yourself in the process of explaining it to others. So writing makes you really grapple with what you are studying. In other words, it forces you into a very deep and powerful kind of learning. That is what makes it so demanding. When you write you are really putting ideas to use.
In writing you have done previously you may have ‘taken in’ ideas from books, articles, TV and so on. But it is only when you can use these ideas to say something for yourself that you have really ‘learned’ them. Ideas only become a properly functioning part of your thought-processes when you can call on them as you communicate with other people. It is very valuable to debate issues with other students in discussion groups. But an even more exacting way of using ideas in argument is to do it in writing.
A key part of using ideas effectively is to be able to write clearly and persuasively. In our society this is a very valuable skill. It puts you on a much better footing with other people if you can present your point of view forcefully in writing. Perhaps you started out on your studies with the idea only of learning more about art, music or history, but you may discover that one of the most valuable things you gain is the ability to write much more effectively. Whether you start with a rather weak writing style or a fairly well-developed one, there is always plenty of progress to be made.
So writing tends to be both the most demanding and the most rewarding part of any course of study. And, because it contributes so much to what you learn, you have to put a lot of your time and energy into it.