Brave Writer student creating a blog post. Image by Holly.
Actually more human beings are writing today than in the history of the world.
In my college class at Xavier, we looked at the dead sea scrolls website. It was fascinating to see the handwritten papyrus, the “added” letter above a word when it had been accidentally left out, the markings for vowel sounds, the literal puzzle pieces of fragments that archaeologists attempt to piece together into a whole. These precious parchments had somehow survived for centuries and represented early religious writings that were cherished and protected as the rare items they were!
In class, we discussed “writing”—how long it has been around, who could read, who could write! For centuries, many of the beloved stories/histories we know today were handed down through oral performance. Oral tradition relied on story-telling features that made the language easy to memorize and urged participation in recitation. Oral tradition relied on a community of reciters and story-tellers, not just a single source.
Over time, the development of written language catalyzed a desire to record some of these stories/narratives/laws/histories. Still, the primary mode of communication from writing to a community came through reading aloud. Written scrolls were copied by hand; eventually handwritten books replaced scrolls. Books were few and prized.
The Printing Press brought a revolution—the masses could be taught to read and write and they would have books to read, and paper on which to write!
From 1439 until about 1993, paper became the context for the written word. Publishing was in the hands of the ones who could print the words and distribute them. While the Enlightenment brought about education for the masses and writing for all, publishing houses became the gatekeepers of what words became books to read and which didn’t. You could try to self-publish but how would you distribute your work? How would you find your audience?
Naturally, being published became a “status” symbol. It meant someone with authority and money outside yourself deemed you worthy of an audience to read your writing. Writing went from being sacred, to elite!
Fast Forward to: The Internet!
Suddenly publishing is for everyone—it is what the Internet does best! It’s not just a tool for transmitting the written word (paper, machine type), but is a delivery system as well—connects writers with readers effortlessly.
The rise of Twitter is an incredible historic achievement! Suddenly ANYONE on the globe can communicate with the entire world in 140 keystrokes, and those tweeters will find a receptive and responsive audience. Never has writing been more democratic, more available, more compelling than now!
What does that mean? Your kids are already published writers! If they update a status on Facebook, caption an Instagram photo, keep a blog, participate on a discussion board for games or movies, write fan fiction, or tweet their lunches, they are writers with audiences because that’s how the Internet works.
No more do they have to rely on oral tradition to retell their stories. No longer do they have to wonder if they are “good enough” writers to “get published.” They write, freely, in front of an audience and find out directly whether or not what they share is interesting enough to compel a comment or a thumbs up or a smiley face. They get to find out the direct impact of their rant or their self-pitying whine. They discover how to shape an argument, how to do research when they are humbled by someone’s, “Did you bother to Google that first?”
Your kids, mine, you and me—we’re all writing all the time every day for all sorts of people, published and out in the world of ideas and words. More than at any point in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD, we are writers and we are writing non-stop!
Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
If you are connected to the Internet, have a keyboard, and take the time to express yourself once a day in writing, you are a GENIUS writer compared to the rest of the world’s population since the dawn of time.
How about that?
Use this tool called online writing and celebrate all the ways your kids are becoming wonderful writers just by virtue of being fully themselves, in writing, on the Internet, let alone all the other ways they are writing too!
Well done! We are so lucky to live at this point in history!
Cross-posted on facebook.