on writing, words, and why
When I was 10-years-old, my mother handed me a composition notebook. On the cover, she’d written the word “journal” and the starting date — March 9, 1999.
I’ve always had a lot of words. I was speaking in full sentences at 18-months-old, beginning the perpetual cycle of exhausting my family and friends with what, I’m sure to them, seems like a never ending supply of words. In the years since my mother handed me that composition notebook, I’ve filled the pages of 24 other journals with stories, thoughts, dreams, prayers, and who knows what else.
Since I first started blogging in 2008, I’ve written nearly 350 blog posts. As a journalism major in college, I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 articles over three years. I wrote a 10+ page paper every single semester of college, excepting the last, and my senior seminar was 32 pages. I’ve written, in some capacity, three different books.
In my 26 years, I’ve written literally millions — possibly even billions — of words. And I wonder sometimes why. What is it that compels me to pour my heart onto the page, into a story, on a blog on the internet?
If I’m totally honest, I’m not entirely sure. But I can tell you that I can’t not write. I may not always be writing for an audience. I may not always be writing academic papers, articles for a newspaper, or blog posts to share online, but since I learned to put a few letters together in ink or lead, I have always been writing.
When I think back, I don’t know that it started so much with the physical act of writing as it did with story.
I have always been captivated by stories. As a kid, my dad would sit on my bed at night, weaving tales of animals that could talk and the adventures they would have for my big sister and me. When I played with Barbies, Polly Pockets, American Girls, or paper dolls, I imagined up elaborate sagas with backstories, family and relational histories, personality types, and more. Even when I would play “house” or “store,” there was a backstory — who I was, what I loved, and how I got to managing my shop (which was usually a bookstore).
At night, I hid under covers with flashlights and stories. When my parents took those away, I pressed myself tight against the wall, holding the book at just the right angle so the sliver of light from the cracked door fell across my page.
As I grew and devoured story after story, I began to find my own footing in the writing realm. By 10-years-old, I was writing historical fiction stories with my friends — weaving complex themes and situations into stories sent back and forth over email.
I recently read a book where the main character was unable to write anything for six months. It’s difficult for me to imagine a worse punishment.
When life doesn’t make sense — stories do, words do.
Writing is how I make sense of the chaos around me. Reading is how I learn about life. Stories are where I learn the most about who I am, who my Creator is, and where I fit in this big, crazy world we live in.
I once had a conversation with a friend about charismatic theology. Though an intellectual person, he has always found Christ through emotions. Though an emotional person, I have always found Christ in the intellect, in the words, in the Word. When I can’t trust the tumultuous nature of my heart and my brain, I can trust the Words, penned thousands of years ago, inspired by a Creator who loves me more than I could ever fathom or know.
I fill all aspects of my life with words — the art on my walls, the shelves in my room, the pages of my notebooks.
Words to me are like life.
They are where I find Christ, where I find others, where I find myself.
I can’t say I always know exactly why I write, all I know is the world makes more sense when I do. I have an exceptional memory, so I’m not particularly concerned about forgetting much. I don’t write to record life, though journaling is certainly handy for that. I write to see life through another lens.
When I don’t write, life becomes stressful and jumbled. But writing brings me clarity. Writing reveals elements of myself and situations I previously missed.
I’m a words person, plain and simple. I have a love affair with them and have for my entire life.
Words make life make sense for me. And that’s why I write — to make the world make sense for myself and, sometimes, for others.