Why Write?: Part 1

No one is born a good writer. No matter how many times you have heard (or said), “You’re naturally good at English,” or, “You’re not good at English,” it’s not true. Everyone can learn to be a good writer. It just doesn’t happen overnight or over years of primary and secondary education, or over two semesters of college writing courses. In a society in which we’re trained in the vice of instant gratification, this is simply hard medicine to swallow. Writing takes time to perfect (if we ever “perfect” it). Not all people learn to write competently at the same pace, which is why not everyone finishes a writing course at the same place even if the same “material” is covered; this disjunction is much to the lament of students, parents, and administrators everywhere.

The logical question, then, is why bother to write well if it takes so much time and effort to learn to critically think and understand the myriad of possible audiences required for even a single given text? The answer, it seems, depends on your intrinsic motivations. The bigger the motivation, the better the answer. The biggest motivation for any Christian (and even many who are not Christians) is simply that there is power in the word.

Never underestimate the power of words.

Nations fall, societies decline, words remain. For those of us who believe in God, the weight of words is even more momentous. It is of the utmost importance for us to realize that the God of the universe chose to communicate to His creatures the attributes of His nature through “language,” through the “Word” made flesh.

“In the beginning was the Word.”

Think carefully about this statement from the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In the beginning of all things, of the entire universe and the history of existence, God spoke—in fact, He pronounced Creation into being. The very use of spoke means God used divine language to create. What’s more incredible is that this means that when God utters forth a word, the thing the word represents comes into being.

One representation of the Trinity explains the triune God in this way: God the Father is a spirit and when He speaks, it is the second person of the Trinity, the Son, and the love communicated between them is the Holy Spirit (alternatively the Holy Spirit communicates the love between the Father and Son). As is the nature of symbols, there are inherent limits to this one as well. That being said, I want to focus on the idea that God communicates who He is through the Son, through the Word. God is imaged forth through the Son. We are symbol-using, symbol-creating animals. As such, the only way we communicate what is in one person’s mind to another is through language, through words. Words themselves are symbols for ideas, for things. The word “tree” is no more a tree than a drawing of a tree is a real tree. So, we have symbols to tell each other what we are thinking. We even think with words. Remember, symbols are both helpful (enabling) and limiting (they can never capture a one-for-one correspondence with the thing they signify or represent).

What’s simply amazing about “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was [and is] God and was with God” is that the symbol is a one-for-one correspondence. Actually, it is the only one for one correspondence ever to exist (past, present, and future).  This statement in the Gospel of John is a statement of doctrinal truth that reminds us that as human beings, one of the things that makes us unique from other animals is being made in the imago Dei (“image of God”) and that means we have the faculties of reason, speech, community, and creativity. All four faculties are important. God communicates things about Himself to his creatures by these faculties: the Father as reason, the Son as speech, and the Holy Spirit as community—the relation of love between others. All three work together to create. Without these things, we are not human. The problem is that our limitations as finite, time-bound creatures mean that our very language of description is limited, even more so since now our language is fallen. To find out how this directly relates to our writing, see my next post.

The Department of English promotes the knowledge and appreciation of literature, introduces basic concepts of rhetoric and argumentation, and helps students master effective writing principles. If you are passionate about creative writing, communication skills, or critical thinking, we invite you to visit our website for more information.
Dr. Toby Coley

Dr. Toby Coley

Dr. Coley is Assistant Professor in the Department of English. He specializes in Composition and Rhetoric and has conducted empirical (qualitative) research on the role of digital media in the writing classroom as well as archival, historical, and textual research in the areas of religion, composition, and composition history.
Dr. Toby Coley

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About Dr. Toby Coley

Dr. Coley is Assistant Professor in the Department of English. He specializes in Composition and Rhetoric and has conducted empirical (qualitative) research on the role of digital media in the writing classroom as well as archival, historical, and textual research in the areas of religion, composition, and composition history.