For the vast majority of literate people, learning of the written word began small. It probably started with sounds, using rounded mouths to form gurgling syllables. Then it moved onto speech, being able to say specific letters and words. After that came the writing itself, but it was tackled in baby steps. Scribbles, then letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then essays. After that, a transference occurs. Once a person has “learned” how to build a proper paper, their learning is considered complete. It is then up to the person what they choose to use writing for, and many choose to utilize writing when it is a necessity. This could manifest to complete duties in the workplace, accomplish organization at home, or (unfortunately, not as often) as an outlet. These recent tendrils of the uses of writing are not far removed from the mighty roots of the origins of writing.
Once writing was acquired by people in the Ancient Near East, their uses of it stayed mostly consistent. As mentioned in my post Let’s Make Writing Accessible during the early centuries of writing, the scribes were the only ones who were trained in its art. As a result, they had a monopoly, so to speak, on the written word. This meant that they had the most say as to what writing was used for.
According to an in-progress work on this history of writing by one of my professor’s, the uses of writing could be generally categorized in two ways. The first is propaganda. Perhaps as early as 4000 BC, images and symbols were used to perpetuate a sense of order and lift up the rulers and gods. Today, this is most definitely still relevant. While the term propaganda has become somewhat taboo in modern society, written and spoken media still has great sway on public opinion of people in leadership positions. Although (as was demonstrated in this past presidential election) the media is an incredible force, the power still ultimately resides in the people, and people can come together to defy great odds.
The second use of writing is administrative, which makes sense. Where there are people there are needs, and if those needs are going to be met it is necessary to have organization. In the Ancient East, the kingdom was responsible for fulfilling the needs of its people. The scribes were charged with the task of keeping this bureaucracy in order, outlining what the kingdom brought in and what it dispensed and what it was left with. This website, History World agrees with the idea that writing was used to keep tallies. It states that in early millenniums, writing was used for such things as tracking animals, conducting trade, accounting, and creating early documents that signified ownership. It goes without saying that writing is of the utmost importance in all economies today. However, it is too bad that writing had to help develop taxes along the way. 🙂
I don’t remember my first sounds, my first words, or even my first writings but that is fine because I am aware of what writing means to me today and I am appreciative of its paramount origins. Propaganda might seem eerie and bookkeeping might seem dull, but without them both who knows where the written word would be in 2017. I use writing to express my ideas, but if it is used to complete tasks that is completely okay. No matter what anyone uses it for the fact that it is being used is wonderful. Each time a person takes it upon themselves to take advantage of the written word, a new shoot is created, a new tendril burrows its way out from the mighty roots of writing’s illustrious history. To me, that is beautiful.