SHAPING THE ABSTRACT: Writing articulates ideas and makes them clearer
LAST week, while talking to someone in education, the subject of motivation cropped up. Motivation is the buzzword these days, we'd all like to motivate.
"What do you want them to do?" I asked.
"Well," he said. "We'll have to motivate them to want to do things."
"Why don't you teach them something?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe if they can express themselves better they will find a way to tell you what they want," I said.
"I'd like them to see things clearly," said the man.
"First clear their minds?" I ventured tentatively. "Teach them to write, perhaps."
"But these are scientists, budding accountants, how would learning to write benefit them?"
"Everyone is empowered by the ability to write," I said, mindful of empowerment, another one that buzzes. "It makes you a better person if you can appreciate the power and beauty of words."
I think I saw doubt writ large in his face.
"By your words are your thoughts expressed. They have ideas in their heads and they express them in words. Words will connect ideas to the world, make them more substantive."
"You are beginning to sound like a book," he said.
"Oh, I must have read that somewhere," I said. "Some people recommend that you should write down the problems that are nagging you. You'll be able to see them clearer."
"Yes, capture a problem in words and you have it within your sight," he said.
"I must write that down..."
"What you've just said. Someday I'd like to quote that."
"But how do we motivate?"
"Teach them to write," I said. "Once a person is pushed enough to want to write what he feels, or express his thoughts in a journal or want to read a book, then that will motivate..."
"I want action, not words," he protested.
"Words," I pointed out, "will lead to action better than motivation in the abstract. In this digital age people are into more words. They blog, they text, they express likes and dislikes in social networks."
"A friend asked this of me recently," I said. "How many schools nowadays teach them what a powerful tool is the word? Words can be unwieldy, they can move. They are powerful and they are weak, they encourage and they upset."
"Yet we do not teach them enough about it. Precis writing is a forgotten subject, a lost art. We do not spend enough time to sit and stare at words," he offered.
"Nowadays they blog and they text and they chat yet our children
are not in touch with words. They read Wikipedia and read miles of text, they shake the Google tree and words fall down on their heads."
"And they cut and paste," he said, looking dejected.
"No," I said, "I wasn't trying to be cynical. They should be learning how to sieve words and how to write themselves. But you've raised a very interesting point: they cut and paste because they have not been taught the value of self-expression, how to think through the maze and how to put ideas in your own words."
"You're going into deep water now," he says, looking at his watch.
"We think when we write and the deed is there for you to look at."
"Yes, and then you'll tell me that writers speak better than those who do not write," he comes back.
"No, I wouldn't go that far because the oral tradition is a wonderful thing. Pawang Ana, the man who spun words in our old Hikayats never wrote, but he painted with words."
"So what basically is your point?" he looked at me.
"My point is that generally writers speak better than non-writers because people who write as a habit and think about what they write tend to choose their words, and they recognise that words have imports."
"Many of our university students now do not know how to express their thoughts, they do not punctuate well and are muddled in thought," he observed.
"Then we should not just teach them bare motivation. Motivation to do what? Go back to basics and teach them to write and in next to no time they will be thinking thoughts."
"Maybe you're right."
"Maybe writers do speak better than those who do not write," I said.
"You're generalising now," he said.
"OK, maybe it's time to teach our children that they can text, chat, insert better comments on the Internet. If they think they will have a better audience for that, then maybe they'll want to learn to write," I said.
"Maybe, maybe not."
"Well, maybe they'll think better too. Remember the teacher who made them write in requests?"
"Yes, I rather like that," he admitted.
"Yes, maybe writers think and speak better because they paint with words."
Wan A Hulaimi is author of the bestseller ’A Map of Trengganu’ Wan A. Hulaimi | firstname.lastname@example.org Source : New Straits Times Columnist 30 September 2012