The following is excerpted from Frank Smith's Essays into Literacy
(Exeter, New Hampshire: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983, repr. 1984). I found this in a college newsletter about 15 years ago. I kept it because it made such an impact on my ideas of writing.
Writing involves transferring thoughts from the mind to paper
Reality: Writing can create ideas and experiences on paper which could never exist in the mind (and possibly not in the "real world" either). Thoughts are created in the act of writing, which changes the writer just as it changes the paper on which the text is produced. Many authors have said their books know more than they do, that they cannot recount in detail what their books contain before, while or after they write them. Writing is not a matter of taking dictation form yourself; it is more like a conversation with a highly responsive and reflective other person.
Writing is permanent, speech ephemeral
Reality: Speech, once uttered, can rarely be revised, no matter how much we might struggle to unsay something we wish we had not said. But writing can be reflected upon, altered, and even erased at will. This is the first great and unique potential of writing, that it gives the writer power to manipulate time. Events that occurred in the past or that may occur in the future can be evaluated, organized, and changed. What will be read quickly can be written slowly. What may be read several times need be written only once. What will be read first can be written last. What is written first need not remain first; the order of anything that is written can be changed. Such control over time is completely beyond the scope of spoken language or thought that "remains in the head."
Writing is learned solely from writing
Reality: No one writes enough, especially at school, to have enough mistakes corrected to learn to write by trial and error. Not even the transcription aspects of writing could be learned this way, let alone all the subtleties of style and expression. The only source of knowledge sufficiently rich and reliable for learning about written language is the writing already done by others. In others words, one learns to write by reading. The act of writing is critical as a basis for learning to write from reading; our desire to write provides an incentive and direction for learning about writing from reading. But the writing that anyone does must be vastly complemented by reading if it is to achieve anything like the creative and communicative power that written languages offers.
You must have something to say in order to write
Reality: You often need to write in order to have anything to say. Thought comes with writing, and writing may never come if it is postponed until we are satisfied that we have something to say.
Writing is a silent activity
Reality: Writing frequently involves making noise, not only to exchange ideas (or feelings) with other people, but to give vent to expressions of exhilaration or frustration.
Writing is a solitary activity
Reality: Writing in general often requires other people to stimulate discussion, to provide spellings, to listen to choice phrases, and even just for companionship in an activity that can be so personal and predictable that it creates considerable stress. Especially when writing is being learned, there is often a great need for and advantage in people working together.