“How do you process thoughts and ideas?” is a question I often ask in the course of doing my job. The quiet, internally processing instructor can be enigmatic, confusing, or challenging to the verbally processing co-worker or student. The dialogue and babble of a verbal processor can elicit similar emotions from others with differing styles. So I will ask all instructors to name their style along with its pros and cons as part of helping people get on the same page.
It has always been quite clear that I am a verbal processor. I come up with an idea, mull it over and then speak it. Only when it is spoken does it become clear that it is a bad idea for one reason or another. Often times this can make me sound stupid, or like I haven’t thought through something; usually it is the latter. Hearing ideas, from myself and from others, allows me to generate thoughts and work through concepts and solutions, regardless of the problem.
Tonight, pecking away at this keyboard, I have found myself recognizing that writing is like talking. I write to process thoughts. In typing the first sentence to the previous paragraph the idea that I write as a means to figure things out popped into my head. Maybe I have always known it subconsciously, but here my fingers gave voice to my thoughts, putting it out there for me to see, to ponder, and do with what I will. Even the sentence below about why I like writing didn’t come to conscious thought until the words flowed from my fingers onto the screen. It is like I am talking to myself, but so much saner.
I used to think that I wrote because I liked to. That is true, but “I liked to” is vague; there is more to it. I like it because I can put out there, unobtrusively, my story. I can be vulnerable; I can express myself. It is there for the world to see, to hear, and to contemplate, even if it is a soft, quiet toss out into the inter-sphere. And the world can do so at their own will.
I write because I learn by reading. I write because I was read to most nights growing up; The Happy Hollisters were standard fare, then The Hardy Boys. Also in there was some Boxcar Children. The Dutch Twins, with its battered, blue cover was an oft repeated story.
I write because I have a story to tell. It isn’t always exciting or earth moving, but it is a story. And it is mine. I write because my story is rooted in privilege and in grief. I write because my story has highs and lows. I write because I am lonely. I write because I want to scream out to the world: “look at me, this is me, pay attention to me.” I write because I made a promise to the internet, to the world, that I would write: one blog post a month. I write because I love to explore and writing is a way to do that; it is also the way I know how to share my explorations. I write because I take on new tasks. I write because I have friends who want to know what is happening in my life and I don’t take the time to call or text.
I write because I can be so challenged by opening up verbally; in person rejection is real. I look at my blog and see two visits (probably by some sort of bot) on any given day and that doesn’t feel like rejection. It feels like success.
I write because on the edge of every keystroke is a vulnerable story that I want to tell. I write because I am scared not to. I write because I feel obligated to and it is easier to write than it is not to write.
Contrary to what it may seem like from above, I don’t write for an audience. I don’t write for a paycheck or to be famous. Writing doesn’t get me laid or get drinks bought for me.
I write because as a teenager I kept journals of all of the hikes I ever did. I write because last year I picked up the journal I kept on my NOLS course when I was 19 and relived every moment and feeling. I write because backpacking trips with my dad were chronicled and photographed and now that is all I have left. I write because it lets me be alone in my loneliness. I write because I am a recorder. I write because I am not that good at talking. I write letters and have ever since I thought I knew what love was. I write because it is irrevocable; once down, once out, there is no taking my words back. I write because deep inside of me there is something that wants to get out.
Writing isn’t easy. It isn’t really fun or inspiring. It is clarifying, cathartic, and thought provoking. It is challenging and at times enlightening. Frequently it is frustrating and saddening.
I write not because I think I have something to make the world better. I write because for all too long, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual males have ruled this world. I write because I want to not propagate that system. My conscious tells me to be quiet, to let other people speak, to not have all the answers, and to give other people space; I write because sometimes it is hard to wait my turn.
I write because all of the above is laced with contradiction and irrevocability and writing holds quiet, empty space for all things to exist and all things to be true.
Featured Image: just some of the ways and means I use to write.