Good Intentions Pave the Road to Good Writing

As a journalist, most of the feedback I get is negative. The last crime article I wrote had 26 contentious comments, the last of which claimed that I loved to humiliate people and their families. Awesome. People absolutely love to criticize news writing – from copy errors to perspective-based thrashings, there’s always something wrong in some people’s eyes.

While the sea of critical commentary can make me want to first, punch someone and second, quit writing, there really are reasons to keep at it. Really.

In my last post, I covered five reasons not to write, and these are true grounds for criticism from readers. But here are some solid reasons in favor of publishing writing, whether that’s in journalism or literature:

  • It will help someone make a decision. It’s election season and believe me, I’m tired of talking to politicians. Sometimes I just set the handset down and let them ramble on about their endorsements to my desk calendar.

Still, I write articles about political candidates because someone needs to take the time to ask the right questions to help citizens understand their choices better, especially in small local elections. Sure, some people will go to the polls and simply straight party vote. But I’ve not done my due diligence if I haven’t used the power I have as a reporter to talk to candidates one on one and make that knowledge available to others.

  • If not me, then who? (accountability) In journalism, this can be coupled with the reason above. While I’m not a fan of journalist always seeking out corruption with quick-to-bite watchdog enthusiasm, there is something to be said for journalism as one of the few remaining forms of public accountability in a world overloaded with manipulated information.

This is dangerous territory for writing with an agenda and looking for the information that backs the conclusion you want. Still, it’s worth working to do well.

  • Because someone needs to hear this story. Do you have special knowledge of a subject that could benefit others? Do you have a story to tell that’s uniquely yours but will resonate with others? These are reasons to speak up – to share your story gifts.

What good is it to have an amazing story if there’s no one around to receive it? I mean, you could sit in your room telling it to your dog, but keep in mind that he’s the same one who wags his tail whether you call him “sweetheart” or “dumb shit,” as long as you say it in a happy tone.

Drag yourself away from the awesomely retro typewriter and remember that your words will in end up in the world. With people.

  • Because someone needs this story told. Similar to the reason above, but not from the receiving end of story telling.

Writers can provide a voice to those that cannot voice it themselves. There’s real value in processing our lives through telling stories; if there wasn’t, story telling would be simple entertainment. Any lit-snob knows that there’s more to good writing than that.

Everyone has a story, though some might me more immediately obvious than others. Hell, some are simply better than others. It’s a writer’s responsibility to find those stories, capture that voice, and bring it into the world in a meaningful way. Writers should make the world richer.

  • To leave a legacy. Now, this is a tricky one because I don’t mean in the feed-your-ego-by-becoming-immortal kind of way. Leaving a legacy can mean a few different things.

My grandfather, for example, wrote a small book of his life stories to share with his family members. I read stories about his childhood that helped round him out as a complete person to me as a grandchild. He also had the chance to pass on some “words of wisdom” to us, and it helped him validate his life in some ways.

There’s also the idea of leaving a writing legacy. Sylvia Plath, for instance, wrote a lot of poetry and prose for publication, but she also kept fantastic journals that were published posthumously. She used these for personal reflection as well as writing practice. To another writer, these are fascinating to read because it shows the shaping of her style.

Of course, all these reasons are under the assumption that your writing is solid, valuable content. Self-indulgent or simply poor writing is a waste of everybody’s time, so just don’t do it.

Or do it, then give it to someone like me to help make it suck less. That’s what I’m here for.