Most of the time, students write essays only because they are required to do so in an exam setting. Thus, students come to believe that essays are important primarily to demonstrate their knowledge to an examiner. This is simply, and dangerously, wrong (even though such writing for demonstration may be practically necessary).
The primary reason to write is so that the writer can formulate and organize an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about something important.
Why is it important to bother with developing sophisticated ideas? It’s because there is no difference between doing so and thinking. It is important to think because action based on thinking is likely to be far less painful and more productive than action based upon ignorance. So, if you want to have a life characterized by competence, productivity, security, originality and engagement rather than one that is nasty, brutish and short, you need to think carefully about important issues. There is no better way to do so than to write. This is because writing extends your memory, facilitates editing and clarifies your thinking.
You can write down more than you can easily remember, so that your capacity to consider a number of ideas at the same time is broadened. Furthermore, once those ideas are written down, you can move them around and change them, word by word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. You can also reject ideas that appear substandard, after you consider them more carefully. If you reject substandard ideas, then all that you will have left will be good ideas. You can keep those, and use them. Then you will have good, original ideas at your fingertips, and you will be able to organize and communicate them.
Consider your success over the course of a lifetime. Here is something to think about: the person who can formulate and communicate the best argument almost always wins. If you want a job, you have to make a case for yourself. If you want a raise, you have to convince someone that you deserve it. If you are trying to convince someone of the validity of your idea, you have to debate its merits successfully, particularly if there are others with other competing ideas.
If you sharpen your capacity to think and to communicate as a consequence of writing, you are better armed. The pen is mightier than the sword, as the saying goes. This is no cheap cliché. Ideas change the world, particularly when they are written. The Romans built buildings, and the Romans and the buildings are both gone. The Jews wrote a book, and they are still here, and so is the book. So it turns out that words may well last longer than stone, and have more impact than whole empires.
If you learn to write and to edit, you will also be able to tell the difference between good ideas, intelligently presented, and bad ideas put forth by murky and unskilled thinkers. That means that you will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then you can be properly influenced by profound and solid ideas instead of falling prey to foolish fads and whims and ideologies, which can range in their danger from trivial to mortal.
Those who can think and communicate are simply more powerful than those who cannot, and powerful in the good way, the way that means “able to do a wide range of things competently and efficiently.” Furthermore, the further up the ladder of competence you climb, with your well-formulated thoughts, the more important thinking and communicating become. At the very top of the most complex hierarchies (law, medicine, academia, business, politics) nothing is more necessary and valuable. If you can think and communicate, you can also defend yourself, and your friends and family, when that becomes necessary, and it will become necessary at various points in your life.
Finally, it is useful to note that your mind is organized verbally, at the highest and most abstract levels. Thus, if you learn to think, through writing, then you will develop a well-organized, efficient mind – and one that is well-founded and certain. This also means that you will be healthier, mentally and physically, as lack of clarity and ignorance means unnecessary stress. Unnecessary stress makes your body react more to what could otherwise be treated as trivial affairs. This makes for excess energy expenditure, and more rapid aging (along with all the negative health-related consequences of aging).
So why write, you ask? Unless you want to stay an ignorant, unhealthy lightweight, learn to write (and to think and communicate). Otherwise those who can will ride roughshod over you and push you out of the way. Your life will be harder, at the bottom of the dominance hierarchies that you will inevitably inhabit, and you will get old fast.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of words. Without them, we would still be living in trees. So when you are writing an essay, you are harnessing the full might of culture to your life. That is why you write an essay (and you need to get good marks to ace civil services exam).
Forget that, and you are doing something stupid, trivial and dull. Remember it, and you are conquering the unknown.
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