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Portal:Writing

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Introduction

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Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with symbols. While not all languages utilize a writing system, those with systems of inscriptions can complement and extend capacities of spoken language by enabling the creation of durable forms of speech that can be transmitted across space (e.g., correspondence) and stored over time (e.g., libraries or other public records). It has also been observed that the activity of writing itself can have knowledge-transforming effects, since it allows humans to externalize their thinking in forms that are easier to reflect on and potentially rework.

Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the debatable exception of computer languages) but are means of rendering a language in a readable form. Writing relies on many of the same semantic structures as speech, such as its lexicon and syntax, with the added dependency of a system of symbols to represent that language's phonology and morphology.The result of the activity of writing is called a text, and the interpreter or activator of this text is called a reader.

As human societies emerged, collective motivations for the development of writing were driven by pragmatic exigencies like keeping history, maintaining culture, codifying knowledge through curricula and lists of texts deemed to contain foundational knowledge (e.g., The Canon of Medicine) or artistically exceptional (e.g., a literary canon), organizing and governing societies through the formation of legal systems, census records, contracts, deeds of ownership, taxation, trade agreements, treaties, and so on. For H.G. Wells, writing "made the growth of states larger than the old city states possible. It made a continuous historical consciousness possible. The command of the priest or king and his seal could go far beyond his sight and voice and could survive his death". For example, around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration in Mesopotamia outgrew human memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica, on the other hand, writing may have evolved through calendric and political necessities for recording historical and environmental events.

Individual motivations for writing include improvised additional capacity for the limitations of human memory (e.g., to-do lists, recipes, reminders, logbooks, maps, the proper sequence for a complicated task or important ritual), dissemination of ideas (as in an essay, monograph, broadside, petition, or manifesto), imaginative narratives and other forms of storytelling, personal or business correspondence, and lifewriting (e.g., a diary or journal). Read more...

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Creative writing is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature. Works which fall into this category include novels, epics, short stories, and poems. Writing for the screen and stage, screenwriting and playwriting respectively, typically have their own programs of study, but fit under the creative writing category as well.

Creative writing can technically be considered any writing of original composition. In this sense creative writing is a more contemporary and process-oriented name for what has been traditionally called literature, including the variety of its genres. The practice of "professional writing" is not excluded from creative writing — one can be doing both in the same action.


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Denise Schmandt-Besserat.jpg
Denise Schmandt-Besserat (born August 10, 1933) is a French-American archaeologist and retired professor of art and archaeology of the ancient Near East.

Schmandt-Besserat has worked on the origin of writing and counting, and the nature of information management systems in oral societies. Her publications on these subjects include:

  • Before Writing (2 vols), University of Texas Press 1992;
  • How Writing Came About, University of Texas Press 1996;
  • The History of Counting, Morrow Jr. 1999;
  • When Writing Met Art (University of Texas Press, 2007); and
  • numerous articles in major scholarly and popular journals among them Science, Scientific American, Archaeology, American Journal of Archaeology, and Archaeology Odyssey.

Her work has been widely reported in the public media (Scientific American, Time, Life, New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor.) She was featured in several television programs such as Out of the Past (Discovery Channel), Discover (Disney Channel); The Nature of Things (CBC), Search for Solutions (PBS), and Tell the Truth (NBC).

In her most recent book, When Writing Met Art (2007), Schmandt-Besserat investigated the impact of literacy on visual art. She showed that, before writing, art of the ancient Near East mostly consisted of repetitive motifs. But, after writing, conventions of the Mesopotamian script, such as the semantic use of form, size, order and placement of signs on a tablet was applied to images resulting in complex visual narratives. She also shows how, reciprocally, art played a crucial role in the evolution of writing from a mere accounting system to literature when funerary and votive inscriptions started to be featured on art monuments.


Did you know...

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...that screenwriter Richard Baer's writing credits for television included twenty-three episodes of Bewitched and five episodes of The Munsters?
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WritingCalligraphyPenmanshipWriting implementsInksAlphabetic writing systemsAbjadAbugidaKanjiLogographic writing systemsWriting systemsCyrillic alphabetsHellenic scriptsScript typefaces

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