Kelly has a great post up today. I commend it to you, along with this opinion piece from the NYT about how the economy is shifting under our feet, and how we think about work as a way to even feel human. It sent me spinning into another one of those, ‘why do I blog every day or write anything at all’ weeks, where I thought about it a lot and didn’t come to any real conclusion. To amuse myself, then, which is what this blog is for, and not for any great or grand ideal, here are seven reasons to write. And if this kind of post is boring, which I know it is, I’m sorry. The clickbait was yesterday.
The first reason to write is that you have something to say. You’ve had some kind of experience or learned something or thought something that you want to sort out on paper. Increasingly, you can just do this on facebook, in short form, and other people will immediately respond to you. But if you have something deeper that needs more words, writing it all the way out can be helpful.
The second reason to write is that you want to. If you don’t like to write, my goodness, there isn’t any reason to write. If you like to do math, do that. Writing doesn’t need to be a noble enterprise, something everyone should do because it is so important and special. Self-expression isn’t, no matter what the culture might shout, a moral imperative. It doesn’t make you into a better and more holy person. You don’t need some special art or some special talent to be human. Liking to do something is enough reason to bother to do it.
The third reason to write is because you want to actually connect yourself with other people. You want to know if the things you are thinking are interesting enough that other people are thinking about them too. It’s not that you want to gather people to your brand, it’s that you’ve had a thought, and you don’t want to live in isolation, quietly gazing at your own naval, you want to be connected to other people. And so you use words to that purpose.
The fourth reason to write is figure out who you are. This is perhaps a more dangerous one if you think that all the words you get down on paper, or on the screen, will be world changing. If you’re writing to sort out the contents of your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual insides—which is a very good way, I think, to sort them out—you should keep that kind of writing in its proper sphere. Maybe it won’t see the light of day, maybe it will, but hopefully not immediately. Figuring out who you are and what you think about something doesn’t have to be the same as going on a quest to find yourself and dragging the miserable reader along with you. It can be a practice that’s useful, in the same way that taking an awfully long walk to sort something out, or having a coffee with someone, are useful.
The fifth reason to write is because you think it might be a help to another. You see someone struggling along in the way that you were, and so you put your own experience down into concrete words, prayerfully, in the hopes that it will be a help. It’s the medium that works best for you, and so you use it, sacrificially, for the sake of another.
The sixth reason to write is to make money. If you can. There’s no harm in trying, if you’re trying to sell the writing and not yourself. The world needs writers and should be willing to pay for the stuff they write—which isn’t quite the same thing as the “content they create.” If something is well written, brilliant, wonderful, useful, a help, well, then the writer should get some money for it. Part of the disappointment for writers and singers and people like that is that we want those kinds of things to be free. We desperately want them, like food, but we don’t put them in our budgets. We want them to be handed to us, like a donut. I am guilty of this. I’m too cheap even to buy a copy of my own book. I’ve given them all away and I think, gosh I wish someone would give me a stack of my own books so that I can give more of them away. Somehow, with words, and art, and stuff like that, we think we don’t really need them, and they should be free, like God—God should give free stuff. Which he does, but then it turns out to be him, and that’s kind of a disappointment.
The seventh reason to write is to glorify God. Maybe you’re good at it. Maybe you have a knack. Maybe you want to and are working hard. All your work can be offered to God in praise for the gift of life and all other gifts that he gives. You can pour yourself into it just like any other useful work can be used to glorify and praise your maker.
I say you, but of course I’m really talking about myself. I write because I can’t do anything else. I can’t knit or sew or paint—well, I could but I don’t want to. My morning hour of writing is the only time I feel really and truly alive. Just like that guy in Chariots of Fire, I’m just like that. Imagine me winning that race and being perfectly happy, wearing something wispy and looking out over an abandoned French castle or something. It’s very romantic. It’s not me huddled over a dinky iPad mini with two dogs grossly licking themselves, every sentence punctuated by the cry, “Don’t talk to me yet! Leave me alone!” I would love for this single hour to be special and important, for it to be meaningful in the deepest sense of the word, for the twitter sphere to rise up and say, ‘She’s the One.’ But honestly, it’s not. I am an ordinary person, hacking my way through life the way everyone else is. Writing a daily blogpost doesn’t magically turn me into a glorious unicorn. The only good reason to do is because I really like it. If I didn’t, I had better go and do something else.
Well, there you are, go read more interesting people in every corner of the world. And throw them a dime and a good review. It keeps the despair from coming all the way into the room.