What I'm Reading: ‘Why Write?’

May 21, 2017

Chelsea Clifford
Dana S. Dunn

Knowing I needed to get serious about writing this past semester, while I was on sabbatical leave, I turned to Mark Edmundson’s Why Write? A Master Class on the Art of Writing and Why It Matters  (Bloomsbury, 2016). Of course, Mr. Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, is writing not just for academics of a certain age who are enjoying a break from the classroom. He’s writing for anyone who wants to genuinely write, whether established or a beginner.

What makes Why Write? distinct from other books on writing is that it is not a "how to" manual or a guide to getting published. This book offers wise counsel on both the pleasures and the perils of writing. Through brief and bright chapters, Mr. Edmundson offers reasons that anyone should write, whether to get in the last word or simply to have written.

Academic authors, take note: Genre doesn’t much matter — Mr. Edmundson himself has published literary analyses and pop-culture studies and autobiography. What matters? Writing is a way to learn about yourself, warts and all, while contributing to your discipline. Indeed, routine writing is a route to living a good and authentic life. Given the current state of higher education and campus life, is there a stronger recommendation?

Dana S. Dunn is a professor of psychology at Moravian College, in Pennsylvania.