I often wonder what compels me to cut open my veins and bleed all over this keyboard that sits in front of me.
I apologize for that graphic image. But for those of you who are acquainted with the metaphor, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, you know that I am talking about the craft of writing.
What possesses me to share with total strangers all my fears, my hopes, my dreams, my parenting adventures (and struggles), my political frustrations, my theological meanderings? Do I have an insatiable desire for attention? Well, maybe…
Honestly, though, I think it is something else. I think it is how writers are wired. I think it is what we are born to do. I have always written: privately, in journals; and publicly, in blogs, papers, and such. I don’t mind spilling my heart. I never have. Now, sometimes the reader may secretly wish that I would use a tad bit more discretion. But it’s like a lacking a social skill – it honestly doesn’t occur to me NOT to share. Often to the chagrin of my incredibly private, proper, Southern-born and bred husband.
The mind can be a weary, lonely, tiresome, and sometimes disturbing place. Writers, and all artists, notice details that the rest of the world does not. We observe beauty in the mundane, because if we don’t we are slowly driven mad. We obsessively look deep beneath every surface for the message that the universe communicates to us, often driving us, and unfortunately our loved ones around us, crazy. We are in tune with an unseen muse that sings to us of depth and truth – meaning hidden beneath our otherwise shallow and mundane existence. We see a story buried beneath the texture and the glory of a patch of emerald-hued moss. A walk through a state park, surrounded by the sweet, heavy hum of pine contrasted with bright lemony magnolia trees on a Southern summer afternoon can inspire a sonnet. We hear a melody scored in the laughter of a child.
Seasons of suffering bring about a special kind of insight and acceptance. Tears pour forth in a torrent of wet, hot, salty madness. And when we fight our way through times of deepest pain, and step back into the light, we want to share with others what we saw there.
We feel everything so deeply. Why do you think writers are often so tortured – alcoholics or victims of mental illness and suicide? We communicate what we feel to see if we are the only ones. To find out if we are as alone as we sometimes feel. Our voices in search of another, floating around in the abyss of time and space, hoping to tether ourselves to the murmur of hope that we hear, of beauty that we discover while in solitary orbit. So we may anchor ourselves to the truth, to keep from drifting alone into darkness.
Writing, then, or painting or composing, becomes a necessary purging; an effort to get this turbulent affair out of the space of our heads, and onto a more manageable, tangible, and neutral format. This creative process is now often prescribed by therapists in the treatment of various mental illnesses. We are creative beings; it’s what distinguishes us from other animals on earth. We need this an outlet. Stay at home moms need this. Children need this. Senior citizens need this. High schoolers need this. Business people need it. Urban city kids need it. To find out who we really are. To discover what we truly believe. And what we are fighting for.
It is a purging of demons, from perspective to pen and paper. For the love of all that is sacred – and it is sacred – we write.
I want to encourage you. Make it a daily habit. A daily discipline. Not just on a whim. Or haphazardly. Write privately in a journal – you don’t have to be an exhibitionist like me. Some of my greatest mental and spiritual hurdles have been dealt with privately, through the pages of unseen journals, stacked in piles and covered in dust in my closet.
What’s the point in writing, when it’s all already been said before? Because you have to. Because if you don’t it will eat you up inside. Because it is part of the process – of healing and living. Writing is therapy.
All the things I want to say have already been said, better and more eloquently, by someone else. However, my hope is that what I say will ring true for someone. Somewhere. Anywhere. The gist may be the same, the core of its truth, its overall message. But the way I say it will be different. That’s the beauty of writing. Even though we all share a universal message of hope, beauty, love, and truth, like individual fingerprints, the impression left upon each individual reader will be different. Because of lenses. Filters. Time and Space. Different and yet somehow the same. Our message will land differently each time, because it is said at a different time, by a unique voice.
Why bother writing? Because what you say matters. You matter. Your voice matters.
Let the world hear it.