Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why I Write

There is always something that fuels a person's writing. If I had no reason for writing, I would not be writing at all.

I've written a lot about a lot of things. There have been multiple times where I have set forth the reason why I write—the source of my writing, the point of my writing, and so on. Sometimes I feel that I have to rediscover the “why” of writing, and the resulting posts are similar in many ways and different in other ways, like different sides of the same cube.

And so I'd like to clarify what I mean by “why” I write. I'm expanding on what I've already written on this subject. The source of my writing is, as always, Christ and what he has done for me. The ultimate point of my writing is to portray the truth that God has revealed. Those are the several “sides” of this cube.

So let me make it clear, lest I am misunderstood, that in this post I am not replacing God in “why” I write, but giving a different take on it. I'm turning the cube over to look at a different side. This side is, seemingly, more “secular”. (Really, there is nothing in this world that is truly secular, since my faith affects everything I do—even the things that don't appear to be spiritual.)

With that disclaimer, let me begin.

In a nutshell, I write to let other people feel what I feel.

When I feel something, when I learn something, when I see something, when I believe something, I want to share it with other people so much that I feel like I could burst. When I am moved, I want to move other people; when my moods are deep and thoughtful, I want to write in such a way that makes other people feel introspective. I coined a term specifically for the sort of poetry I love—if it's a good piece of poetry, it gives me “deep feelings”, that sort of good ache in your chest that makes you let out a deep breath and think of stars and moonlight and the secrets of the universe.

I'm a very, very intellectual type of person. I tend to process everything through my sense of logic and order, analyzing and organizing my thoughts. Debate is my forte, geometry is the only kind of math I like, and a good argument is my brain candy.

That means that “feeling” is not usually something that happens to me. Maybe my brain overcompensates, then, because what I do feel, I feel in a way that is almost violent. When something affects me, it affects me so much that it has to have an overflow, some way that it can escape.

Except I don't talk. And I don't let many of my moods escape to my appearance—they stay hidden beneath a normal face.

That makes it so that my only overflow, then, is in what I write. I am not emotional; but when I have an emotion, it overflows. I write. My moods spawn poetry, my beliefs are born onto paper. Feelings become words, thoughts become poems, struggles become novels.

This isn't just restricted to the emotional side of things, however. This sort of thing happens to me intellectually too. When I learn something and it “clicks”, I want to share it with other people so that it can “click” for them too. When I understand something, I want to write so that other people understand it too. What I know, I want to articulate.

Obviously, the most common outlet for my “intellectual” side is nonfiction. This is why I enjoy debates, why I write articles, why I take notes. But this also makes it into my novels—The Voice of God is a good example. While my main themes were a mix of ideas, there was one theme in particular that was very intellectual. I wanted to show what the reality of hell looks like with people who had never heard of Christ. The dilemma revolved around how fair it was to condemn people for not believing in something they had never heard.

Of course, I didn't treat it like I would treat a debate, and I certainly didn't pause the novel to give a theological treatise. I did, however, embed it in the fabric of the story so that it came out organically. Faceless “people who had never heard” became actual characters who actually did die, leaving someone who thought he believed to struggle with the idea of them going to hell. What he chose to do and say was crucial with how the story would go and how it would resolve.

The main point of that example is how a concept can become easier to understand in the context of a story. Stories are how I show other people what I feel and see and learn. An actual character is easier to picture than a vague description of “those people”. It is one of the many tools I use to have the reader feel how I felt—by feeling how the character felt.

That is why I write: I use what I write to help people understand what I understand, and to feel what I feel.

Articulating the inarticulate is the job of the writer, and it's not an exact science. “Inarticulate”, by definition, means that you can't put it into words. But that doesn't stop us from trying. The test of good writing is how close you get to saying what you wanted to say—how close the reader gets to feeling what you wanted them to feel.

And that's why I keep writing, and perhaps why all writers keep writing.

We have felt the indescribable...and we want to describe it.


Sarah said...

Inspiring post. I think we all sometimes need a reminder of why we write.

Bluebelle said...

This is an excellent post, Jake! I think this is true, at least in part, for all writers. It was neat to see it articulated. I really love how you worded that: "We have felt the indescribable...and we want to describe it."

Chapter 39 said...

I once wrote (around 10th grade) "no one knows me like my pen and paper."

I think it rings true for you as well.


Keturah Lamb said...

Those are a lot of the same reasons I write. I want to write something that will touch or change someone for the rest of their life.