Why I Write

Everyone is a writer. From the shortest of tweets to personal journals to the longest blog posts and the next great novel, they are all forms of written communication used to express something. We each have our reasons for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, though that doesn’t the same ring to it.) In high school, I found myself using writing as an outlet to deal with all my teen angst. In particular, poetry became my primary expression of the myriad of emotions and intense life struggles I felt. I’ve shared a few from that time and some written since here on the blog.

In the last few years, I decided to launch this blog and publicly share some of what I write in the hopes that those ideas would resonate with the world. Or at the very least, my circle of friends would form a closer connection with me. But there are a few core pillars to the reasons why I write in the first place.

To Communicate

Perhaps it’s the first and most obvious point. Many people write to communicate an idea or thought. The oral tradition of passing down knowledge is not our primary method of information transfer anymore. The written word gives me the opportunity to put my thoughts together in a coherent and complete fashion. Perhaps most beneficially, as the writer, I can say what I want to say without interruption. I’m frequently frustrated with others who find a way to interrupt mid-conversation assuming they know where my statement is going or interjecting with some factoid relating to themselves instead of anything related to what I was saying. It is a great failing of our American culture to make almost every situation about ourselves and how we see the world. How much better it would be if we listened intently to one another and not only to wait for that moment to go “Enough about you, listen to what I have to say now.”

To Remember

Over the last couple of years, I’ve reconnected with the idea and act of physically writing things down again. Good quality pens (with very fine points from 0.5mm and smaller) and paper matter to me, especially because my handwriting is particularly … unique. I’ve been using products from Moleskine and more recently Field Notes. (The latter’s products are all made in the US and mostly with Illinois-based companies too and I like supporting local business when possible.) But it’s their tagline that perfectly captures how I’ve been feeling about writing:

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

I am also reminded of the joy of writing things down on pen & paper, combined with its ability to improve memory (here, here, and here.)

Before my recent European vacation (Griswold family not included), I revisited my paper journal from my 2011 sabbatical and was instantly transported back there. As I read various entries, I vividly remembered sitting in parks or restaurants where I logged the events and thoughts of that day. While I have had similar recollections when rereading blog posts and looking at photos I took, nothing else has captured the depth of the moment like reading over that journal in the same way.

To Process

During the most challenging events or situations in my life, I am brought back to the blank sheet of paper with pen in hand or the computer screen with Word or Google Docs awaiting my input to put into words what’s going on in my head. When everything feels like a jumbled mess inside my head, even attempting to express and better formulate those thoughts and concerns brings a sense of clarity. Answers don’t necessarily hit immediately because I took a few minutes to scratch or type out something, but the groundwork for a breakthrough has been done to be reaped later.

High school and college were, as for many, periods of significant personal change and extremes. Life didn’t make sense some days. The world didn’t seem fair. Given that part of my existence was in the mid to late 90s, I expressed my teen and young adult angst and frustrations in paper journals (typically of the Mead spiral notebook variety.) Thanks to my junior and senior year English teachers exposing me to American & British literature, I found poetry as a way to process the world around and in me. It allowed me to tell a story from that moment in time in a way that was personal and often disconnected enough to be relatable. I would later discover some of those poems would resonate with friends I had chosen to share them with.

Today, I still write on a semi-regular basis, though the poetry output has seen a steep drop since the late 90s. I use this blog as a place to selectively share what I’ve been processing in my head and heart. The annual birthday reflections are the most personal expression of that processing, though most of what is posted in the last couple of years reflect a little bit of the inner me. And I’m OK with this shift. It’s a way to share without wearing my heart on my sleeve and scaring people off but also giving readers a story and situation to connect with.

Write More, Write Better

It’s a healthy and productive process for all of us to write. Even if you never share anything publicly or with friends, the ability to put thoughts together on paper (or on screen) is an important and necessary skill. I for one will continue to work on improving my skills and increasing the frequency.