Monday, January 19, 2009

Day of Service: Where Does Writing Fit In?

How can writing be of service?

I'm still working on answers to that question, but I love what Francisco Stork has to say about where we should begin:

Why write if not to give and to give your best? The thing about writing from a spirit of generosity that is not so obvious is that if the spirit of giving is not in your writing, your writing will not be as good as it could be. It will be superficial and you will not give the reader what he or she most desires. And the reader will not give the work his or her full devotion. There is a connection between “why” you write and “how” you write. If giving is the reason why you write you will reach a depth in your writing that will not be reached if you are motivated by anything else other than the desire to give. Writing that is born out of a desire to give is the writing that lasts.

Here is the rest of his gently provocative post, The Six Perfections of Writing.

What do you think? Is writing service? If so, you have to admit that it's not what immediately comes to mind on these sorts of occasions. How can we get better at that?

Note: Francisco Stork is the author of Marcelo in the Real World (March 09, Arthur A. Levine Books.) I have a proof of the book beside me now that I've just begun to read. I only meant to read one chapter and then go to bed, but somehow, I'm deep into Chapter 5. More about it later, I promise.


  1. Thanks for this link. I like having something to mull over before nine am on a monday! It puts these common sense writing notions in quite the elegant light...

  2. I think that writing, especially writing for children and teens, is service. The books that kids read are going to change their lives for the better, by expanding their horizons and enhance their understanding. And similarly for adults. If we didn't have writers to pour their hearts into what they write, none of this would be possible.

    I'll go one further. Although I enjoy it, I also think that by reviewing books and writing about literacy, I'm performing a service, too. Just because you enjoy something, just because you're compelled to do it, doesn't mean it isn't also performing a service for people. Or ... maybe I just want to stay home and review books today, instead of getting out to do anything different.

  3. Hmmmm....Such good food-for-thought today.

    Quickly, Jen, you DEFINITELY perform a service. Hoo boy, a very good one.

  4. Oh, yes, I DO think reviews and interviews and blogging about literacy are most definitely a form of service, in a very big way.

    I guess I was wondering how writing as an art form can serve in ways we haven't thought of before. For instance, if I wanted to perform some service today related to writing, what opportunities are out there? Writing a press release for a charity? Composing encouraging letters to students who need hope? Recording oral histories that might otherwise disappear?

  5. Good ideas, Sara. Also: Tutoring for your age/grade-of-choice in composition...

  6. Well. I think the work itself can be a tremendous service, if it offers its audience empathy or joy or beauty or breathing room or an escape or any of the myriad things a book can offer its readers. But in terms of doing a day of service, I immediately think of going into the schools. Helping, inspiring, firing kids up to read and write.


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