Why We Write

I think I’ve figured it out. Fucking finally, too.
I’ve been writing online for exactly 10 years now, and years before that, in the form of letters to my girlfriend at the time. I have posted a total of 360 items (many include several subjects):

25 filed under ‘abstract thought’, which are the least popular, ramblings with little relation to physical reality. Thought experiments and such.
2 under ‘fiction’, which was the attempt to approach my state of mind through vaguely autobiographical fiction writing.
1 post in ‘order of appearance’, which I am filing little lists under. The one post so far is titled ‘26 years to learn’. I might put more under this category but most lists I make just seem like a desperate attempt to be funny.
48 under ‘low-life in the high-lands’, which I wish I would have spelled differently. Travel blogs, all things considered the most popular, because people actively go searching for them.
194 items in the ‘own life’ category, which are the posts resulting from things I experienced first-hand.
65 in ‘roadie life’, including all things work related.
7 under ‘snapshots’. Photography stuff. Good posts in my humble opinion, but I’ve kind of run out of things to say.
16 in ‘the local perspective’, where I try to be a movie/music/everything critic.
If you’ve done your math, you’ll notice there are a few short. That’s because at some point, my whole site got transferred from spaces.live.com to WordPress, where a few category settings got lost. I never bothered to clean them up, it’s not that important to me.

And about once a year, for all those years, those hundreds of posts and those thousands of personal details shared, I get the question, “Why?”
Despite me asking ‘why’ all day every day, I never wanted to do so when it came to writing. It’s something extremely valuable to me, but fragile at the same time: If I lose that drive, I can’t force it back, and I will stop writing. So I try not to mess with it, don’t ask too many questions, and just accept it as a gift. I never really bothered to answer the question people asked, with a meaningful answer.

Until recently. My friend is a good listener, maybe that’s why I keep him around: So I can do the talking. And as I was doing so, I noticed I was in uncharted territory. I found myself saying things that didn’t make sense, and had to retrace my words to try again. But gradually, things clicked and I had found my answer. Luckily, it did not involve me losing interest altogether.

I’m sure a lot of people write, more than you might realize. In diaries, in letters, in notes they keep around. They write poetry, songs, stories and rants, but so little is read by others. So why do I go as far as tossing my most personal details in public, for strangers to read and judge?
I notice a small peak in traffic every time I gain a new facebook friend, from people who might be scratching their heads a little, wondering that same old thing…
Why?

The thing about writing is, it might give you some clarity and confirmation, but that doesn’t make it true. You could write the most incoherent bullshit and look at it, and if it resonates with your thoughts, you’ll think there’s truth in the words as if they are spoken by someone else. But there might not be.
All those things you’ve written down in your notebook, those little art pieces? They might not suck, but they might not hold any truth, either. They might make you feel better about yourself or other things, but what other than an unfounded illusion is that happiness, if it is simply false or nonsensical? Short-term gratification is useless without long-term confirmation, it will just result in increasing ups and downs, with nothing coherent to hold your thoughts together.

Letting others read your work, first of all, forces you to re-evaluate what you’re trying to say. Is it just emotional rambling or do you have a point? A question, maybe? And if it’s just rambling, does it make sense? Given the circumstances, does it need to make sense?
I learned to look at what I’m trying to say, from another person’s perspective. I often have someone specific in mind when I’m writing, wondering (but not necessarily caring) what they might think of the story. If I really can’t find a way to at least bring my feelings in an understandable fashion, perhaps I should reconsider them and try to figure out what I’m really trying to say.
This helps in analyzing where those feelings come from, and handling them more efficiently, not letting them get into the way of making the right decision.

But more importantly, it opens your whole train of thought to criticism. That might sound scary, but keep one thing in mind: You are your own worst critic. The worst thing they can say is that you’re just looking for attention, which ironically, is true. Why else would you write to them, why else let others read? Without attention, there’s no criticism. Without criticism, you can never tell if your writing makes any sense at all. And that, to me, is the point of it all:
I want to know if what I am writing, is true.
Or at least, if people can relate to the emotions. If they can, you approach emotional invincibility: Whatever they might try to hurt you with, applies to them as well. By getting comfortable in a vulnerable position, you arm yourself against hurtful comments and learn to see personal criticism as you should: an opportunity to improve.

You won’t hear me say I can’t be hurt, of course. I’m only human and despite what my ex might tell you, I do have emotions occasionally. But that too, can be put into perspective.

With my thoughts and conclusions thrown out in public and with no one disagreeing, I can more safely assume they’re true and build further on them. It’s a method of personal study, allowing me to teach myself on the endless facets of the world and thinking itself, and without letting my eyes be blanketed by irrational assumptions, continue onward while at the same time, getting acquainted with the paths behind me.

In other words: 
Writing helps me think. Logically, calmly, rationally.

Writing helps me deal with my emotions so I can clear my head. By asking confirmation, by screaming for attention, and double-checking with others if I’m seeing it right, or should approach it a different way.

Ultimately, writing has helped me immensely to become a happier person. By allowing the bad feelings in, and giving them a place among the good. It stretches my mind and exercises thought, until I can deal with difficult problems more efficiently. It maps my mind and helps me compensate for weaknesses, allowing me to develop mental tools, pathways to work past mental difficulties I have encountered before.

I would greatly recommend it. It can be difficult and emotionally draining, but builds strength like nothing else.
You should write. If you’re looking for a subject, find something on this site you disagree with and explain why, as elaborately as possible.
I , for one, will be reading the shit out of it.

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2 responses

  1. Dieter

    Je zielsverkenningen toetsen aan de waarheid door ze openbaar te gooien is inderdaad een perfecte reden om te schrijven. Maar ik blijf erbij dat dat bij mij zou resulteren in een subset van mijn gevoelens, diegene waarvan ik bereid ben ze te delen met anderen, en dus een oncompleet, gecensureerd beeld. De drempel om alles te delen is gewoon te hoog, en rekening houden met mensen die over mijn schouder meelezen te intimiderend, dus ik schrijf wel maar publiceer nooit.
    Dat dit resulteert in een serie individuele redeneringen die niet 100% stroken met de waarheid op het moment zelf vind ik niet erg, het zijn voor mij beschouwingen van het moment, waarvan de “onwaarheden” wel gladgestreken worden op verloop van tijd. Het weerspiegelt een zoektocht. Naar iets. Dé waarheid? Een persoonlijke waarheid? Vooral zingeving wat mij betreft.

    Accuraatheid en juistheid zijn voor mij niet persé het punt, vele van mijn posts zijn simpelweg niet daaraan af te toetsen, het zijn gewoon eerlijke persoonlijke observaties waarvan het geen steek houdt ze af te doen als juist of niet juist, dat houdt gewoon geen steek.

    De betekenis en zingeving erachter worden dan wel duidelijk over de grote lijn.
    Als je dan wil spreken over de waarheid, zou je kunnen zeggen dat ik die terug vind overkoepelend over de individuele getuigenissen heen, die stuk voor stuk momentopnames zijn en dus potentieel vol scheve redeneringen staan. Die worden in retrospect dan wel ontmaskerd.

    Zo hebben we alle onze drijfveren natuurlijk.

    30 June 2014 at 16:24

    • Goed begonnen, blijven doorgaan!

      1 July 2014 at 15:40

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