Why paint? Why sew? Knit? Garden? Play the piano? Play football? Snorkel? It’s funny how the pursuit of any other creative endeavor is rarely questioned. But writing? We question the validity of it all the time. Is it really an appropriate use of our time here? Isn’t it a little selfish? Maybe even self indulgent? Especially given the state of the world. These are the kinds of questions Becca posed this week. How do you find to positive things to write about in these troubled times? Do you think the written word has the power to effect positive change?
This has been on my mind a lot recently. I keep telling my family and friends that I absolutely must stop listening to NPR first thing in the morning. It’s usually bad news followed by horrendous news followed by impending bad news. Who needs to start their day that way? Not me. Years ago I stopped watching the news before going to bed. Again, why should I go to sleep with all those dire warnings and disturbing images in my head?
We are living in unprecedented times. News, both good and bad, is literally at our fingertips. Constantly updated moment to moment. We are bombarded with the bad economy, global warming, healthcare, foreclosures, and terrorism and now North Korea wants to test a missile. Perfect. Unless we make a conscious deliberate effort to unplug on a regular basis, I think we begin living in a constant state of stress.
With all that’s going on in the world, with the economy the way it is, with two girls who will need to go to college in three then six years, I often wonder what is the point of my writing. It has not brought in much money in the twenty years I’ve been doing it. It has actually cost money in the form of classes, conferences, retreats, books, postage, and internet access. I walk through bookstores and see the shelves bulging with books already published. Who needs my words? I look at the environment and wonder if my words are worth the life of the trees it will take to create my books. I look at the stacks of notebooks I have already filled and think of all the trees I have already used just to be able to spill my thoughts and stories out of my head and onto a piece of paper. I look at the state of publishing and some would have you believe it’s nearly impossible to break into. So, why write?
Well. Many reasons.
1. Words matter. Words can build us up. Inspire hope. They connect us to ourselves and each other. Stories open us up windows to worlds previously closed.
2. Writing rights my state of mind. So when the doom and gloom all get to be too much and anxiety threatens to suffocate me, writing brings me back to the current moment. Here I am, in this moment, tapping my fingers on these keypads, hearing the rush hour traffic whine past. Anxiety is all about fears of what might happen. Writing drops me smack into the present.
3. Writing clears space inside my head. It can get awfully crowded in there with worst case scenarios. If they stay in the darkness of my own head it all tends to get greatly exaggerated. But, if I spill it onto the page, it loses much of its power and no longer weighs me down.
4. If we don’t use our gift of writing, it’s a smack in the face to the universe.
5. When I write I feel energized, focused, calm.
6. When I don’t write I feel sluggish, distracted and restless.
7. Um… it’s fun. Most of the time. Well, some of the time.
8. And again.. . words matter. They can be a light in these dark times. The world can always use a little more light. And the world can also use people who feel connected and passionate about what they write and that passion spills out into the world. See, it’s win win win all around.