“Isn’t it funny the way some combinations of words can give you – apart from their meaning
– a thrill like music?” – C. S. Lewis
The other day I found a word doc on my laptop from 3 years ago comically titled, “last paper of my life.” At the time, I was a second-semester college senior headed to grad school for math, writing what I thought would be my final paper for an American History course. I think that title was one of the few things motivating me to complete that assignment. Little did I know I would end up pursuing a PhD in Math Education and by year three have hundreds of pages of writing behind me with hundreds ahead. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with writing, but I’m starting to find joy and fulfillment in the struggle.
As a numbers girl, writing has always been a challenge for me. Add to it an acute awareness of good writing when you see it and some perfectionist tendencies, and you’ve got a recipe for writer’s block. In the world of mathematics, I was perfectly comfortable. Recognizing relationships and patterns came naturally. Putting my thoughts into words in a way that accurately captured my thoughts was a whole different story.
And so here I am, throwing myself yet again into the world of writing, and for anyone to read, no less.
Why am I doing this?
Writing is a creative act.
In high school, art class gave me anxiety. Painting still-lifes or drawing the dreaded self-portrait made me more stressed than taking the SAT. Luckily, I have found that I too can enjoy the benefits of engaging in the artistic process through writing. Arranging words well calls for creativity and imagination. There isn’t one right way to do it and like any art, it is a craft that can be honed through practice. Great writing has the power to connect us, delight us, move us, and shape us. And the joy that comes with a finished piece, creating something ourselves that stands on its own, is uniquely satisfying.
Writing provides clarity.
We write to make sense of the world around us. Often I find myself confused about my own thoughts on a topic, academic or otherwise, until I am forced to write about it. Putting pen to paper (or finger to key) forces me to make decisions. While writing, I encounter questions I hadn’t even considered before trying to explain myself. “What is it I mean when I say this?” or “What are the implications of this idea?” Processing, organizing, and reformulating all happens through the act of assigning words to those wispy little things floating around inside our minds. In writing, we get the chance to delve deep and push the limits of an idea, all within the confines of the page.
Writing allows us to discover ourselves.
We also write to make sense of the world inside us. I’ve found that writing for myself, about myself has been fruitful and enlightening. Since my first day flying off to college in Dallas, I have kept a journal. My journaling style tends to be more about my thoughts and feelings at the time, rather than documenting details of events. I like writing about my resolutions for that day/week/month, what I’ve been praying about, what frustrates me, and what makes me come alive. I confess that I journal less often than I’d like (once every few weeks, at best), but turn to it as a means of relaxation and reflection. I’ve found it helpful for a few reasons.
In the moment, taking the time to hand-write what it is I’m thinking or feeling allows me to slowly and methodically put order on thoughts that may be confusing or ill-formed. Writing out my ideas helps provide definition to the sometimes fuzzy lines of what it is I am actually experiencing. It is deeply satisfying to “put a finger on” what it is you’re thinking. Is an idea truly an idea until it has been articulated? (file under: things I’ve often wondered). Our words shape our thoughts as much as our thoughts are communicated in our words. Once something is down on the page, it becomes more real. Whether it is being honest about my shortcomings, documenting my goals and aspirations, or thinking through a big decision, there’s something honest and raw about writing it down-an accountability of sorts. Just like confiding in a close friend, putting down thoughts on a page removes them from my head, creating a healthy space between myself and them. Often, I find that it is easier for me to reflect more clearly and openly about where I’m at or who I want to be with the distance I’ve created through writing.
I also really enjoy being able to flip back through to see what I wrote in the past. My memory is not very good, especially when it comes to who I was at a particular place in time, and it’s often insightful to be able to see my thoughts in a particular moment. I’ve looked back on my writing and found patterns in what I’ve struggled with, or consistency in what brings me joy.
I’m excited about this blogging project even though there are some whispers of doubts creeping in. What if I’m not feeling inspired? What if I care too much about what people think? What if I run out of things to say? Like many worthwhile projects, this too requires faith and vulnerability to take the leap.
And so, I will write.