Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why Write?




I'm a very creative person. I like to express it in a variety of ways, mainly through writing and music. Music seems to be one that everyone I talk to can understand; loads of people all over the world are musicians, regardless of what level (professional, amateur, hobbyist, etc) and it's one of the oldest forms of expression in human history. While I am no great visual artist, I do have a bit of talent there and art, whether painting, drawing, sculpture, or another form is a very common and obvious form of expression. Writing, too, is one of the oldest forms of expression; from moment the written word, ink, and paper were invented, people have been writing things down. Yet, when I try to discuss my love for writing with the same passion that I have when I speak about music, many people don't quite grasp why I should be so passionate about writing.

The big question so many ask is: why write?

Like music and art, writing allows one to express things in their own unique way, with our own voices and talents. Unlike art and music, however, writing doesn't offer anything flashy or instantly pleasing to the senses, be they sight, sound, touch, or taste and smell (if one includes cooking is a form of expression, which I enjoy as well!). While other modes of artistic expression first grab you with a direct appeal to one or more of the senses before the intellectual aspect of the enjoyment registers, reading offers none of that. In order to enjoy writing, one has to sit down and work at it, reading word after word, paragraph after paragraph, and page after page, absorbing everything as it's transferred from the eyes to the brain. Thus, the challenge as a writer is to make what you write as engaging and interesting as possible in order to grab the reader's attention, and more importantly than that, keep their attention.  If you think about it, writing gives you the greatest ability in capturing your audience's attention. Since your readers must have all of their attention focused on reading, absorbing, and processing what you've written, you have the very definition of a captive audience (figuratively speaking).

I've always had an active imagination, ever since I was a boy. To this day, I'm still a big fan of things like Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Dracula, The Walking Dead, Lord of the Rings, the Dune books, comic books and superheroes, and various other science fiction and fantasy books and movies. I've always enjoyed using my imagination and losing myself, if only for a moment, in the different worlds and different characters in novels, comics, and films. Because of this, it was only natural to gravitate to becoming a writer because using the written word gives the writer absolute control and power over what they write. Think about it, with art and music, you're limited (to varying extents) by the tools of your trade, your talents, available technology, and the laws of nature (ie gravity, strengths of materials, sound waves, etc). Not so with words. If you have pen and paper, let alone a typewriter or a computer, then you can write. The only limitation is your own imagination. And when I say imagination, I don't necessarily mean to imply that you can only write fiction. Writing non-fiction takes just as much imagination, but in a different way.  As you can see from my ongoing series on writing a book, I try to apply these principles whether I'm writing non-fiction, as I did with my two published books, or fiction as I am currently doing with my novel in progress. 

Finally, why write? To answer this question, I give the same answer I would give to any question asking why do something: because it's fun! While certainly not everyone enjoys writing, I and numerous others around the world absolutely love doing it. Obviously, I can only speak for myself but the way I look at it, it's a way to express all of the different ideas and thoughts, opinions and analyses that I have, in a way that is uniquely mine and that I have absolute control over.  After I get all of this stuff out of my head and put it into words, I can read it and reflect on it, change it and improve it, be inspired to go in a totally different direction, and anything else I can think of.  While the same experience is true when I'm writing and recording my music, the moments of inspiration often aren't as fleeting or like catching lightning in a bottle with writing as they are with music. Oftentimes I'll play a guitar part or sing a vocal a certain way that is so much better than I've ever done, but no matter how hard I try I can't repeat it quite the same way ever again (this is true for all musicians, not just me). With writing, since you've got the words recorded and in front of you, those inspired moments are captured for all time (or until your document is erased!) and can be expanded upon and modified as much or as little as you like. I can't tell you how many times I've come up with a song idea in the middle of the day that I'm incredibly excited about, only to forget it hours later and have it disappear forever. The moments where ideas come out of the ether and land in your brain are easier to remember and get down on paper when you write, at least for me.

So that's why I write. It's because:

- I enjoy it
- I can write wherever and whenever I want with whatever I have access to (pen/paper, iPad, laptop, etc)
- I can write about anything; I'm only limited by my imagination
- I can easily change what I've written however I want before I'm finished
- It gives me absolute control over my work
- I know I'll have the undivided attention of my audience when they're reading it, which is both a privilege and an honor

Yes, I like to write because I'm good at it and I enjoy it, but I also write because it's something I and the rest of humanity have been doing our entire lives at home, school, work, and everyday life. Think about that: it's something we all do every day until we die, in whatever capacity, yet not all of us enjoy doing it. To be able to enjoy something that you must do every day for the rest of your life is a gift indeed. THAT is why I write.

(This article also appeared on Head Stuff, which I contribute to...it's a great site, check it out!)

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