You Have to Have Something to Say

One of the real perks of teaching is that I often find myself learning more than I think the students themselves are learning. Out of the mouths of babes, and all that.

I was thinking back on a statement that one of my otherwise not-so-impressive students shared in class several years ago. It had a profundity that stuck with me all of these years. I was lecturing, as I often did, about how important it was to be able to communicate effectively, which means for writers to know grammar, spelling and punctuation.

“It’s not enough to know how to write,” this student said. “You have to have something to say.”

What made me think about that statement is that next month I’ll be speaking for a Career Day at Burton Adventist Academy in Arlington, Texas. Students in high school are inevitably interested in how much money they can make in their career of choice. And I want to be honest with them. Despite what their English teacher might tell them, the chances of them becoming wealthy through writing are slim to none. But that’s not the reason to write. Or to be an editor (since I am talking about both).

On the other hand, if you find you have something to say. Writing–and editing–gives you a bully pulpit. Good writers are looked upon as someone to listen to, regardless of whether they have meaningful ideas to share or not. And if you DO have a meaningful idea that is gnawing at you, causing you to lose sleep and spend hundreds of hours trying to communicate it, writing and editing give you the opportunity to share that idea with others.

But first you have to have something to say.