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Thursday, June 30, 2016

From the Writing Desk



People have recently been asking me why words are so important to me... why am I so finicky about them? Why do I strive to use the correct ones?

Thomas Munn in his Essays of Three Decades once said, "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." A puzzling thought... shouldn't writing come most easily to those who are good writers? The past year has taught me that nothing could be farther from the truth.

I was a declared Communications major my freshman and sophomore year... I had it all sussed out. Until I realized that none of it was making me happy. I was merely going through the motions and becoming more frustrated with my college life. One day after practically failing my midterm and being an emotional cluster, uncertain of anything in life, I had a meeting with a professor for a writing class. Through casual chit-chat he asked me if I was a writing major.
"No. I'm actually in communications." I replied, half chortling.
"Oh? Are you really enjoying that?"
Ha. Funny you should ask good sir. 
"Well actually... no. No I'm not. I'm actually hating it, and I'm pretty sure I just failed the midterm."
"Have you ever considered being a writer?"
"Oh I just.. I've always loved writing, I just never thought I'd want to make it my job for the rest of my life. What if I ended up hating it, you know?"
He nodded, understandingly.
"Yeah, I know... but what if you ended up loving it for the rest of your life?"

For someone who likes to look on the bright side, I had somehow never thought of the possibility. While the paperwork and mindset took awhile to change, I think it's safe to say that I changed my major the very second my professor asked that question.
What if I ended up loving it?
What if?

This past year has been life changing. When you find something you're passionate about and begin nourishing it, it's beautiful what can become of it and how it can transform you. But as I began honing my skills and writing more, a deep realization churned within me. Writing was hard. I mean, saying something is easy. Writing in its driest form is quite easy... ink to paper, fingers to typing, streams of thought to coherent sentences. But that's just technical writing. True writing is like trying to make sense of some great cosmos in your heart... are there words for the feelings we don't even know we possess? How do you encapsulate such powerful feelings into consonants and vowels and syntax. Sometimes it feels like a worthless shot in the dark trying to convey meaning through words, yet writers keep trying.
Why?

Because we have to get it right. We have to get them right. The words, the meaning. Words mean so much to us and it's as though our innards writhe in pain when we can't find the right words. That's the hardest part. There aren't enough words in English, nor any language, I believe, that can truly envelop all of human nature, desire and yearning. So as writers we have this impossible job of trying to concoct, order, phrase and orchestrate words into such an symphony that the reader will hear the music that so desperately wants to be heard from our souls.

Sure, we could find adequate words to transfer meaning... but what are mere adequate words? No. Adequate words feel like an injustice to writers. We must find the perfect words. And if we cannot... then we must not write at all, and this, my friends, is the most painful - when you have so much inside of you, without the slightest clue of how to pour it out.

We fear that if we write something... we'll write it all wrong. But we're also afraid that if we don't write, no one will ever know what we are so desperately screaming within our silence. And this is the most stifling, sacredly painful state of being to experience. So we write, half misery, half hopeless abandon, hoping that somehow our words will do justice to our inner cries.

So in order to answer the questions that people asked me... I had to really think about why they mattered. I realized that a lot of it is rather circumstantial; how I've grown up in a vocabulary rich environment, the fact that my giving and receiving love language is words of affirmation. But it's more than that... I think it's innate, God-given and I think every true writer has it. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're good at what you write. Its the nagging, the intense desire to get it right, and to be in some sort of pain when you can't seem to find the words.
This is what writing is.
Half misery. Half hopeless abandon. Hoping. 

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