Why Do I Write?


David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.

I started writing "A Line on Life" in March, 1983. Some readers have wondered why I continue to write this column. A past-president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. George Miller, did not want psychology to be a mystery to lay people. He encouraged psychologists to "give psychology away"to the public. I thought I was doing this in my classes at Arizona Western College. However, one evening at a party, Jerry Kulpa, the former publisher of the SuperShopper, asked me to write a psychological column for his publication.

I had been communicating about psychology in some depth to 125-200 students each semester in my courses. With this opportunity, I could give smaller bits of psychology away to 35,000-50,000 people each week! I accepted his offer.

The title I chose for my column, "A Line On Life," can be interpreted in at least three ways.

One saying or line that guides my life is, "The more skill you have, the less luck you need." We all need both luck and skill to reach our goals. But if we have few skills, we'll need a gigantic amount of luck to succeed. These skills include having the knowledge to choose among our available options.

As much as possible, I try to provide knowledge of available choices in living. Rather than merely describing behavioral problems, I want to give my readers options in dealing with these problems. If I cannot point out available options, I try to refer my readers to others that can provide them with this information. If information in my columns has helped any reader, then it is easily worth my efforts. (Since I don't get paid, I certainly am not in it for the money.)

Almost all of my articles are simplified from current psychology textbooks, journals, and other periodicals. Essentially I am summarizing professional articles at an easier reading level, so they can be better understood by more people.

However, I am not completely altruistic in writing these articles. I use some of them as handouts for my Introduction to Psychology and Human Sexuality classes. Typically the handouts are articles that cover some topics that are not adequately discussed in the texts.

These articles also help me to learn. First, finding sources for my articles keeps me up-to-date in various areas of psychology. In this way, it adds to my professional growth. In addition in contrast to merely reading the material writing about the new facts makes the information clearer in my mind. (This is one of the main reasons why teachers ask their students to write papers.)

Over a decade ago, I noticed people looking at the campus bulletin boards. They were typically waiting for someone who was registering or attending a class. The bulletin boards usually only contained posters on courses or upcoming events. I thought, "Why not give these bored people something informative to read while they are waiting?" Since then, I have posted my articles on bulletin boards around campus.

However, some of my readers think that I should not write about some topics in my articles. This relates to another saying of mine, "NOTHING is so terrible that it cannot be discussed."

In our culture, a topic that people are afraid to talk about is (you guessed it) sex. Some people have the mistaken idea that if you don't discuss sex you won't think about it. The biggest fear is that, if people especially young people think about sex, they will engage in sex. This leads some to the erroneous conclusion that if sex is not discussed sexual activity will not occur.

In contrast, whether we want it or not whether we discuss it or not some young people will engage in sexual activities. Educating our youth about sexuality does not change the frequency of their sexual activity. However, for those who choose to be active, education reduces the incidence of unwanted births and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Most parents believe that values including sexual values should be learned at home. I strongly agree with this. However, in many homes, parents are too embarrassed or too uninformed to discuss sexuality with their children. The hesitancy of parents to discuss sexuality leaves their children ignorant. In their ignorance, the children are more likely to accept the myths promoted by misinformed peers.

If readers discuss the topics that are covered,
my articles are serving their purpose.

I do not expect you to agree with everything I say. However, I hope my articles get you to think about the topics I cover. Even better, you might even seriously discuss these articles with others who are close to you. If this happens even with a small portion of my readers then it is worth the effort it takes to write these articles.

Here is a list of articles that are used as handouts in my classes.

For first page of additional articles that are not used as course handouts, go to extra articles.

Go to second page of additional articles.

Go back to my home page.