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Why I Write

Why I Write for Professional Publication
Knowledge Quest Web, May/June 2001

Well of course I write for the big bucks, huge prestige, and pure adulation of millions of fans. While the limos, champagne on first class flights and attractive strangers constantly opening their bank accounts and boudoirs to me gets tiresome, having my own line of fashion apparel saves me from having to shop for clothes. Oh wait, that’s some other kind of writer. I write for professional publications. Sorry, lost in fantasy for a moment…

Let’s see, why do I write? There are a number of pretty good reasons why I write (and why you, dear reader, should consider doing so as well):

I have to write anyway. Much of what I write about comes from dealing with challenges on my day job as media and technology director for Mankato Public Schools. As a part of making an effective media program work, tools need to be developed, policies written, programs planned, and philosophies clarified. Things seem to run better in my district when they are down in black and white. Problems, new projects and good questions from students, staff and the public all require that I write about them, even if it is only to help me clarify my own thinking. And I figure that if I am struggling with an issue, others may be as well.

Writing keeps me current. There is no incentive like knowing others will be reading what one has written to force one to stay current on technologies and trends in education. I like reading futurists and it’s a real challenge to try to figure out the implications of their predictions for my school and profession. While never much for doing “research” in high school or college, using information to find solutions to problems is actually interesting. I still detest having to write footnotes, however.

Writing helps me keep my day job (I think). I mess up on my job a lot. Anyone who really tries out new methods of teaching and working should be expected to fail on a regular basis. (If you don’t, you are probably not reaching far enough.) So every now and then it is nice to be able to slip an article or column to the superintendent, board member, or even my own staff. I hope their thinking goes, “Gee, others think this guy has some credibility. Maybe he isn’t as crazy as I think he is.”

Publishing returns the favor to others from whom I have borrowed. I have learned so much from the people I consider to be the real experts in media and technology. A partial list includes Loertscher, Eisenberg, Simpson, Berger, Valenza, Barron, Haycock, Donham, Jukes, McKenzie, and a whole raft more. And it isn’t just the big dogs who help me: I steal my best ideas from practicing media specialists and technologists who speak at conferences, write for journals, and contribute to LM_Net . I am a great believer in the “stone soup” mentality. When everyone contributes to the pot, the soup is richer for it.

Knowing I’ve helped someone. It’s the rare conference or week of emails when I don’t get a thank-you from a media specialist or technologist who tells me they have been able to some how use what I’ve written. Whether it is a tool that they’ve found effective, the description of a plan that they’ve gotten to work in their district, or a column that persuaded a local decision-maker, wonderful people come forward to say thank you. It makes all the sunny mornings I spend writing instead of playing worth it. Thanks back to you.

I’m on a mission from God. Heavens knows that nobody goes into education (or writes for it) to make money. As educators, our satisfaction comes from actually believing we are doing something that will make the world a more humane place in which to live. The ultimate goal of professional writing is to improve professional practice that in turn improves the lives of kids. Minnesota writer, Fredrick Manfred in his poem “What about you, boy?” says it far better than I ever could:

…Open up and let go.
Even if it’s only blowing. But blast.
And I say this loving my God.
Because we are all he has at last.
So what about it, boy?
Is your work going well?
Are you still lighting lamps
Against darkness and hell?

Finally, I just love making lists.

I not only encourage, but expect all members of our profession to write for publication. While it may never improve your bank account, you’ll get jewels in your crown for lighting those lamps against darkness and hell. And please, toss in a little humor and poetry when you do.

PS. For suggestions on places to get started publishing see http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/12/16/where-to-start-as-a-writer-for-professional-publications.html

Posted on Monday, June 11, 2007 at 09:14PM by Registered CommenterDoug Johnson in | Comments7 Comments

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Reader Comments (7)

Good encouragement. I especially liked the first point--there is so much that I've thought to write down as I was working it out and failed to do so...and that would be very helpful to have available now.

You have a typo in your second paragraph (the short one) : "There are a number of pretty good reasons I why write..."
Cheers, Fred

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFred Mindlin

Thanks, Fred. Typo corrected, I think.


August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

How do you suggest starting to get published? What journals, newsletters, etc. publish articles from "regular" media specialists?

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Swenson

Hi Linda,

Check my blog post:



August 6, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi there, I've just started writing my own blog and marketing, I went to University and came out with a degree that I will never use going for a job I never wanted, so I stumbles into the film construction industry to get some money in, not realy what I'm looking for when it comes to work but it's money. When I was at school when taking my GCSE's I was told I was dyslexic, teachers thought I was just slow when they found out it was too late for the tests, but I was not going to let this stop me and got an education. Whats funny is even though my spelling is darn awful and grammar is much to be desired few months ago I started writing a book, Why? It something I never done before and I have so much imagination that I want to get in down on paper... so I tried a short book that when it comes back from getting checked out will be selling in on amazon. I will let you know when I have it up and running in my blog so please keep an eye out and give me some feedback on it. Positive and negative please be truthful. At the moment on the blog I'm just marketing somethings to get some rep and a little cash flowing.
Have a look and see what you think comments are always welcome.



April 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdrew tappin

Doug! That poem took my breath away! I had to do a search to find it in its entirety.

Here I will copy and paste it for your audience:

What About You Boy?
by Frederick Manfred

"What about you, boy?
Is your work going along?
Are you still making candles
Against darkness and wrong?
The whole thing is to blast.
Blast and blast again. To fill the
With songs, poems, temples,
Anything at all. Attack. Attack.
Open and let go.
Even if it's only blowing. But blast.
And I say this loving my God.
Because we are all he has at last.
So what about it, boy?
Is your work going well?
Are you still lighting lamps
Against darkness and hell?"

1965, Thorp Springs Press, Berkeley, CA


It compliments a poem I learned in high school that I still have memorized, for some strange reason:

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

If I put the two poems together, it talks about pushing ourselves and losing ourselves to push back the dark. How thankful I am that even the teensiest bit of light can push back so much darkness. I am reminded of that fact every time I draw the curtains.

I love to write. It's "in" me. They say that woman have to get through 20,000 words a day. I'm sure for me it's 2-3X that amount. Ever since I started blogging for Coetail, I've been using that to channel my words. My friends are thankful. I've cut-back on my long email letter writing as a result.

We each have a different story to tell. It's unlikely I will reach the upper echelons of professional writing as you have but I love to write & share about meaningful things that hopefully will make people stop and think, laugh, and leave with a smile on their faces. In addition, I am always trying to switch students onto the love of writing. That's my contribution to growing the "light".

May 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVivian

Hi Vivian,

Darkness has always been a symbol for ignorance and somehow conquering ignorance is what educations is about. Yes, I love the Manfred poem and know your Millay poem by heart! There is an old bumper sticker that reads "It's better to burn out than rust out."

I suspect you have already had a big impact of many children and fellow educators. Oh, "upper echelon's of professional writing" is something of an oxymoron!

Keep writing,


May 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson
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