“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor
The scene opens. A young woman sits on the edge of her seat, her body hunched forward over a spiral bound notebook. Next to her rests a half empty mug. The smell of stale coffee reaches her and she crinkles her nose. In her left hand she taps a black pen against the table idly. She takes in a deep breath and looks up. The moment is brief as if a long respite will cost her dearly. She looks back down. The page is blank. It has been blank for as long as the minute hand on her watch dips past the two and heads for the ten. The tapping grows louder. Even to her it becomes a nuisance. She snorts and leans back against the chair. Her eyes close. Why, she asks. Why do we write.
In 2018 we live in a world that pushes STEM. Every child is encouraged to think about maths and science. Look to the future, become a computer programmer, an engineer, a scientist, a mathematician. With the newest budget proposal coming from the Whitehouse we see cuts from the arts and various organisations which support them, such as public radio. We hear students express their longing to be creative, while our society pushes them toward more practical and career worthy goals. No English major gets a job outside of teaching. Museums are losing funding. You’ll never be a Picasso, a Pollack, Monet.
Why do we write and perhaps, most importantly, why should we write?
To Understand Ourselves
As we write, we learn to engage with ourselves. It is one think to speak off the top of your head, to rattle off facts and information, feelings, opinions, arguments or gossip. It is another thing to put those ideas down on paper. To write is to engage with the self, to think, to understand what it is one wishes to say before he says it. Writing requires a good dose of introspection. It forces the author to consider their ideas, to pay attention to what is being said. Does it make sense? Does it sound right? Am I getting my point across? We can only answer these questions by looking inward, by understanding what we mean to express and then doing it.
To Express Ourselves and our World
As we grow into our thoughts, as we begin to understand who we are, it becomes easier to express. Expression does not have to equal creativity, at least not in the sense of painting portraits, writing novels, or crafting poetry, We can enter the stream of creativity by seeking to use only the words which best fit our meaning. We can craft our meaning as a choreographer crafts a dance. In addition, we can seek new ways of crafting our message and sharing with others in ways that inspire.
To Invite Others In
Writing is a form of communication and like any other form of communication, there is an audience. Writing allows us to reach beyond ourselves, to identify with others and allow others to identify us with. In writing, we are vulnerable. We give our most precious opinions, we give our time, we give our spirit. Through writing, we pave roads for others to follow. Through writing, we open doors that others may not have known were there. It is through writing that we create empathy. For three hundred pages we follow the journey of another, feel their wants, their fears, their joys. For those pages, our journeys become entwined and we understand what it means to be human, what it means to be alive.
To Question Everything
It is no secret that the world is changing and not necessarily for the better. The United States is watching as its government teeters on the verge of a constitutional crisis every day. Evidence of antagonistic governments interfering with elections has been corroborated. In addition, people are losing their rights, their families, and their safety. We have questions about gender, about race, about socioeconomic status, and everything in between. It is through writing that we state our dissent. It is in writing that we call into question the actions of those in power. It is in writing that we explore ramifications of dystopian nations. It is through writing that we can call upon our leaders to change their course.
Why do we write?
Because we have to do it.