By Cindy Haney
“…Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” —Anaïs Nin
“Why do you write a blog?” a friend asked me recently. “You don’t get paid for doing it, plus you have a ‘real’ job. So what’s in it for you?”
I thought about that question for a while. I acknowledge that I don’t have a brag-worthy number of followers on my blog, my posts have never gone viral, and a Fortune 500 publishing company is probably never going to contact me. Yes, I know I don’t promote my blog aggressively in social media. For me, it’s not about the number of “likes” on Facebook, or the number of clicks in WordPress. For me, it’s much more than that. The answer is both intensely personal and universally shared.
The act of writing is often described as painful and difficult. Not many people find writing pleasurable. But I do. In school, writing an essay was used as a form of punishment by my teachers. I was the kid in the back of the classroom that was secretly high-fiving myself whenever one was assigned. It’s no wonder most of us stay away from writing when we become adults!
Just the other day, my daughter Emily, 16, turned in an essay that she had painfully labored over the night before. Her teacher, who is the cold and callused type, wrote in red on her paper, “Writing isn’t really your strong suit, is it?” I could just hear the bless-your-little-heart Southern sarcasm dripping from her red pen. I was angry and disappointed. This is the kind of comment that sticks with you. Because a teacher said it, she now believes she cannot write a good story. What the teacher didn’t know is that Emily once loved to write, and she would fill notebooks with her musings. She was great at it. But it only takes one mean-spirited comment to crush your self confidence. Good teachers work to encourage their students, not tear them down.
So what, then, compels writers to write? If not for fame and fortune, what then?
For me, I am an artist, and writing is a form of artistry. I can paint on canvas, I can design in Photoshop and Illustrator, I can create with jewelry tools, and I can paint with words on paper. To me, there is no difference in the process, only a difference in the tools I use. Words are like fine tools. When I find just the right words to express what I want to say, I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain
I write because I am compelled, or forcefully driven, to leave something behind that is bigger and more lasting than my small unremarkable life. In my real life, I am mostly invisible, cursed with social shyness, mostly introverted, and probably the last person you would notice in a crowd. But writing gives me a sizable chance to be seen, to be noticed, to be heard, to make an impact. Writing is a manifestation of a bigger need for others to truly know me, especially my daughters to whom my blog is written. My blog is a love letter to them, a record of their teenage-hood, and a collection of life lessons. That’s the personal side of writing.
For the more universal side, I write for the same reasons all writers write. We want to connect with the world, even when the real world and the people in it elude us, and mostly overlook us. We want someone to hear us and to understand us, and to feel the same emotions that we do. I want to make my readers laugh, cry, to feel good or to think deeply. I want to share feelings that maybe I can’t state directly, but find easy to unveil on the digital page. I want to entertain readers with my smart-ass reflections on the trival world around me. And finally, I don’t want to die anonymously. I want to leave an imprint big enough to be seen and remembered.
All of us, on some level have that little creative spark inside of us… even my daughter, Emily, who has been told wrongly that she does not. You can be sure that I’m not going to let that idea take root and grow. I think every one of us desire to be heard and understood, and learning to write well is a creative means to that end.
So here’s my message to Emily, and to Amanda who is majoring in Journalism in college, and to all of their young friends who are just starting out as young writers: Never give up, keep writing, and keep reading. The most avid readers are the best writers. There’s a whole universe of stories, real or imagined, inside your head. Share them! Don’t be afraid to make stuff up, it’s called good fiction! Don’t write for the notoriety. Write for the love of writing and everything else will take care of itself.