I wanted to take a different turn for this blog. Sometimes it’s important to step back and take in the big picture so we can understand the origins and meanings behind things we take for granted. With writing, we can sometimes lose ourselves—lose our direction and our purpose.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what writing is. I’m going a little abstract, so bear with me. Writing is a tool—a technology. And at the most basic level, all technologies are just extensions of the human body. They improve upon some function that our body is naturally capable of doing. Cars, trucks, planes all improve upon our basic means of movement: walking. Instead of walking three miles in an hour, we can drive it in a few minutes. Phonographs, 8-tracks, CDs, MP3 files: they all improve the capabilities of our voices. Instead of singing to a room of a dozen people for a couple hours, we can transfer our voice into a digital file, able to reach millions across the planet for countless years. Taking a more violent turn, swords, guns, as well as armor—these improved our capability to give—and take—damage using our natural weapons and defenses—our fists, and our skin.
All tools can be seen as improvements on some aspect of the body. Writing is the same. Writing is an extension of the mind. It lets us transform our thoughts into a tangible form. It's truly remarkable to think about: writing lets us transmit ideas from one brain to another, largely regardless of time or space. Before writing, stories from one mind to another had to be transmitted via the oral tradition, as we gathered among our communities to share our stories. But once we began to write, we became capable of sending our thoughts beyond time, fixing them to the page.
But that’s just my interpretation of what writing is. There are many different reasons why we write. The most basic reason is to communicate ideas. Some write for their own enjoyment. Some write hoping to become a renowned author. Although I write at least something on a daily basis, I rarely stop and think about why I’m writing. Instead, the urge to write bubbles up in my mind. There isn’t a lot of logic in it. I began writing as a way to express thoughts and feelings I couldn’t understand without putting it down on paper. Sometimes that’s still why I write.
But I don’t write to become a popular author. I don’t write necessarily to communicate my stories with others, although that’s a nice option further down the “writing production chain.” Explaining why I write isn’t easy. I don’t even think of myself as a writer or author or poet, etc. I’m just someone who—in spite of how frustrating, time consuming, and lonely writing can be—does it because I can’t imagine not doing it. Almost everyone seems to be programmed for creative expression in some way, whether it’s cooking, art, athletics, music, or what have you. Who knows whether we’ll be successful or if we’re any good at our art—it’s more about our need to produce—to create—something. That’s not much of a rational argument for writing, I know, but it’s the best sense I can make of it right now.