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Xavi Laack: Benefits of writing extend far beyond the page

The more I wrote, improving my vocabulary, syntax, and style, the more my thinking improved, sounding more like my writing, and vice versa.

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Xavier Laack Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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Writing is how humans have communicated, through physical messages, stories, and teachings, for thousands of years. Prior to this school year, I thought the reason many classes in school require students to write essays is because being able to write well is a valuable skill. While this is correct, it is an oversimplification. I was quite sure when I applied to be a teen columnist I would emerge from the experience as a better writer. What I did not foresee about the columnist experience, and what I now think is the most beneficial part of writing, was the way it changed how I think.

I have always loved the subject of English, but I spent most of my time reading, and significantly less time writing. Reading is much more fun and less mental work, so I pounded through loads of novels and nonfiction texts. But this year, my English class, AP English Literature and Composition, required me to write — a lot. And while I have written my fair share of research papers and personal stories, I had very little experience with writing a literary analysis. Through my English class and writing teen columns I was served an analysis-heavy writing combo platter.

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At first, I didn’t notice much of a change in my writing or behavior. But as the year progressed, I realized I was receiving better and better grades in my English class and I started getting comments from my friends and family that they thought my columns were improving. But the change that I first noticed myself was a change that couldn’t be seen on the outside: I started thinking differently.

This change is supported by the theory of Linguistic Relativity, a concept I learned about in AP Psychology, which basically states that aspects of a language influence aspects of cognition. The more I wrote, improving my vocabulary, syntax, and style, the more my thinking improved, sounding more like my writing, and vice versa. A positive feedback loop formed: The more I wrote, the more sophisticated my thoughts became. Because my thoughts became more sophisticated I wrote better, which inspired me to write more.

The power of writing cannot be overstated. When the most influential people in history are examined, one thing that is consistently exceptional is their writing. Martin Luther King Jr. is well known as a powerful speaker, but speeches start out as writing, something MLK did plenty of considering his five published books.

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It may seem obvious that influential writers can change societal views when considering famous books like "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" or even contemporary works like "Just Mercy." Although most people won’t have their writings published in a book or delivered in a podcast, effective communication through writing can still have important benefits. Writing skills can help an individual accomplish his or her goals, like communicating better with one’s boss or co-workers.

Writing also has personal benefits. In fact, journaling is known to reduce stress, strengthen memory and help people prioritize and achieve their goals. Just consider Leonardo Da Vinci and Anne Frank, whose journals and diary have had lasting impact on the world.

This year, I have begun to experience the positive interaction between writing and analytical skill development, and learned that writing is a great way to influence oneself and the world. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to write as a teen columnist.

If you are reading this column, you are likely a reader by nature. Why not become a writer as well?

Xavi Laack will be a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters. Email jpieters@postbulletin.com.

Related Topics: PEOPLETEEN COLUMNS
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