The Value of Writing to Be, Not Do

writing to be

As a business writer, most of the articles I produce have one rule: Give the reader one or more action points. The idea is to let them feel as though your advice is both accessible and immediately applicable. It’s all about giving a roadmap that can lead others to success. If there’s nothing for the reader to do, you’ve failed.

But what about writing that doesn’t ask you to do? What about writing that merely asks you to consider being?

What is “being” writing?

“Being” or “to be” writing is writing that encourages you to consider yourself and the world and whether who you are inside of that environment makes ethical sense. It doesn’t ask you to proceed through any particular steps. Rather, it presents topics and scenarios in ways that inspire you to either make a change or gain confidence in your current stance. The ideal pieces can address biases, fill knowledge gaps, and paint a vision of possibility. It’s different than editorial or opinion writing in that it can present many points of view. The reader can come to their own conclusion based on a broadened perspective.

Why writing to be is so precious

“To be” writing has a way of getting readers to understand themselves and their circumstances in a profoundly deep way. It helps them to grasp the ramifications of different paths and pursuits. Ultimately, this improved understanding can influence a person’s confidence, decision-making, and relationships. It builds a personal values framework upon which the individual can build strategies for any situation. Put another way, with “to be” writing, a person develops an internal compass that informs everything they might do. If they try to reverse the order and focus only on doing first, they may be able to take action, but they won’t necessarily feel grounded with full accountability for that action or feel with certainty they’ve made the right decision for themselves and others.

Be still and write to know thyself

Do how-tos and listicles have their place? Sure. But my concern is that, in emphasizing only those types of action-oriented options, we are forgetting that doing is supposed to reflect who we are. As the Christian scripture (Matthew 7:15-20) puts it, we are known by our fruits. I worry that, instead of maintaining our own autonomy and authenticity, we instead fall into the trap of merely copying others and never considering alternatives that might be better for us.

So, despite my trade, I will respectfully push the how-tos and listicles with all their action points to the side when it’s appropriate. I will write pieces that force me to be still and figure out if I am content with myself. That, to me, is of more value than any step-by-step guide will ever be.