Most writers have read an essay or two entitled “Why I Write,” or something similar. In fact, anybody who enjoys the arts has probably seen similar essays: “Why I Paint”; “Why I Compose,” and so on. Self-reflection, seemingly, is bound up with the creative process.
You might notice that such musings — while not limited to writers — rarely come from the pens of, say, computer engineers. I have yet to see “Why I Practice Law,” either…or “Why I Run a Successful Busines.” Although various factors may account for the dearth of such essays, here’s my theory: When one’s chosen career is highly practical — and therefore more or less lucrative — explaining it is rather superfluous. That’s the world we live in, I suppose.
One year ago, I shared publicly what had previously been a secret dream: that I’d always wanted to be a writer and was finally doing it, darn it. Frightening territory for somebody who doesn’t like to fail, much less be seen doing so. Thirty-three blog posts later, I’m still plugging away…but I confess to wondering, more than once, why I’ve chosen to spend my precious free time this way.
Blogging certainly hasn’t brought in any money…nor did I expect it to. The whole idea was to flex my writing muscles, not to gain instant fortune and fame. Besides, fame is extremely subjective; if it means becoming a household name, the only only way for a writer to achieve it is to (a) have one’s books made into movies (perhaps you’ve heard of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King?) or (b) die at least fifty years ago. So, while I think it would be nice to eventually supplement our income by publishing beyond my blog, I know I’m no Jane Austen (much as that would be flippin’ AWESOME).
Still, what is my purpose? To have a creative outlet? To some extent, yes; writing has always felt more natural to me than other creative pusuits, and I enjoy it — though, like running (which I also enjoy), it’s often challenging and even discouraging. For me, the act of writing, in and of itself, is like talking to the wall; lacking hearers, it feels futile. Madeleine L’Engle wrote in Walking on Water,
“Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been still-born.”
This statement, I think, points to my most fundamental reason for continuing to write.
“Art is communication.”
Wielded skillfully, words can transform the way a person thinks — in both the big things and in those that appear small. With her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp prompted me to see almost every choice I make as a reflection of gratitude…or lack of it. Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew encouraged me to read the Gospels in a fresher and much more personal way than I ever had before. In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis reminded me that this life is merely a vapor, and that every earthly glimpse of beauty whispers to us of what God has in store for those who love Him. In helping me to look at life with fresh eyes, these authors — and many others — also confirmed the truth that writing can make a difference.
Every so often, somebody will say to me, “Your words have really helped me; thank you for sharing!” Occasionally, a friend will share something I’ve written, along with a comment about how it provided amusement or encouragement. Others might say very little, but consistently read my blog every time I post something.
I may not have the following of Honest Toddler or Scary Mommy, but I have friends who remind me that what I’m doing is worthwhile. Art is communication. Readers make that communication possible. And because you have taken the time to read, I will continue making the time to write.