On Writing and Culture

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.  ~Anaïs Nin

What makes writing good enough for it to be significant to any culture? That all writing is a cultural activity, there is no doubt; however, not all writing is worth reading, and therefore, of no real use to any culture except to highlight the need to improve the state of writing. What makes writing truly valuable to culture–any culture and culture in general–is what the reader can get out of it. I’m going to dissociate academic writing or professional writing from literary writing, because academic and professional writing are certainly and always written with a clear and valuable purpose in mind–in most cases, to share valuable information, record events, or instruct readers. Literary writing, on the other hand, aims mainly to entertain; occasionally to enlighten or inform as a great deal of creative non-fiction does, but in its purest form, to entertain. There is no other reason for stories–short and long fiction, poetry, or drama to exist. That we should have such a rich culture of literary works is clearly evidence that writing is valuable, otherwise, we would not preserve and pass on our stories with such care and fervor. What does make writing–or literature–valuable to culture is its significance to humans and to civilizations. That significance comes from the ability of a literary piece to speak directly to each reader who comes across it, its ability to make that all-important and significant connection with readers that makes them feel every emotion and connect with every idea the author has tried to convey through the written word. In many ways, a writer’s words are a window to the writer’s soul. Only when writers pour everything–their thoughts, joys, frustrations, successes, failures–into their writing, does the writing come alive and become a reflection not only of individual writers, but of their lives, their  milieus, their environs–their culture, if you will, in little bits and pieces, because that is exactly what each piece of writing is: a piece of a puzzle which, when put together, reveals a whole cultural panorama that decorates history as it is being made and brings it to life for future generations.

How much of yourself or your life do you reveal in your writing? Share your thoughts on The Writing Pool.

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